When travel simply isn’t an option, the best educators find the best opportunities available to their students.
That’s what Becky Paschke did with her marching band at D’Evelyn High School in Denver, Colorado. While Paschke typically travels every other year with the help of AdvantEdge Travel, their big trip to Disneyland was cancelled due to Covid.
Instead, the D’Evelyn Marching Band got two amazing opportunities this year, performing first in the virtual presidential inaugural Parade Across America and then at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Both experiences created memories that will last a lifetime for everyone involved, and they’re hoping for even more big opportunities in the future.
Paschke’s love of music came from her parents and school, spending years performing in marching band and with Drum and Bugle Corps. Her love for teaching, meanwhile, comes from the students. Under her direction, the band has doubled in size and now is home to one out of every six students at the school. “My students mean everything to me, and they deserve the very best. When Covid happened, it was how are we going to make things right for the kids and how are we going to give them opportunities?”
They wanted to keep the goals alive, and had hoped for years to perform in the Presidential Inauguration Parade. After applying to perform with a video of past performances and a letter of recommendation from Senator Michael Bennet, they rehearsed the song just in case. Over and over, they practiced “American Patrol” from home before receiving any reply.
Thankfully, they were approved for the gig a week before the parade, so they quickly filmed and recorded the performance—masked, distanced and outdoors. That also required a uniform fitting, which took place outside.
While the inauguration was a historic experience to be sure, performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre is the kind of experience students dream of. This outdoor venue built into a rock structure near Denver is one of the most famous stages in the world, frequently drawing big names like Billie Eilish and Jimmy Buffet.
This event was created to celebrate 80 years of music at Red Rocks, featuring performances from local artists and community heroes. Everyone in the audience was there to celebrate each other, from first responders to a pianist prodigy.
Beyond the stage’s fame, Paschke and the students simply enjoyed performing for a crowd again.
“It felt really special to be able to have a chance to have live performances again,” said drum major Rayna Hylden. “It felt a lot like how our normal competition performances feel, where we get to all sit in the stands together and watch other performers.
“And, it felt really amazing to be recognized in a performance that was dedicated to keeping the music alive during the pandemic, largely thanks to Miss Paschke for making sure her students still had chances to perform and keep doing what we love. It’s so inspiring.”
It’s clear that Paschke’s students feel how much she cares for them, but it’s also clear that the band’s success goes far beyond one person. When asked what the “secret sauce” is, Hylden attributed it to the community. “We really support each other in all aspects of life, both staff and students. We’re here to perform well, but you need to be having a good time with the people around you. All of us have fun at our practices, and if you make a mistake while you’re in rehearsal, that’s okay because that means that you can fix it, learn from it and get better.
“I think it really teaches our students that you can try new things and not be afraid to do that. All the students, we really just love each other, we call ourselves a second family and that’s not taken lightly.”
Paschke agrees with this sentiment, offering advice to other band directors and educators. “It always has to be first about the relationships with your students, because that’s huge, and if your students care about you and they care about each other, then they’re going to want to work hard for each other and for you.
“And so, I think relationships is number one, and having really great communication, because then everything else can go from there. But it has to start with a true, genuine, kind, caring relationship.”
Going forward, Paschke hopes that her students’ takeaway from this experience is to work hard and work together to achieve your goals. These performances would not have been possible without the students and teacher alike giving it their all, working together to do more than they ever expected.
They won’t stop trying to achieve their goals now. D’Evelyn just performed in their first Bands of America competition in October, and the next goal is to perform in the 2023 Rose Parade in Pasadena.
Whatever happens, Paschke is just excited to keep performing and traveling with her students in the years to come, pushing boundaries and reaching for the stars—together.
“Travel opportunities are one of the big reasons students stay involved in music,” Paschke said in one final piece of advice. “When you and your school feel safe to travel, it can be used as a huge recruitment tool to boost total enrollment in music programs. This is a huge opportunity, because everyone cannot wait to go out into the world again!”
This story comes from Teach & Travel’s November 2021 issue.