Eagle Regiment performs in the London New Year’s Day parade

Michelle Kefford
One by One. Eagle Regiment members prepare to march down Berkeley Street. The London New Year’s Day Parade ran throughout the city. Photo permission from Michelle Kefford.

Anna Horowitz, News Editor

The MSD Eagle Regiment kicked off the start of the new year by performing at the London New Year’s Day Parade on Jan. 1. The band prepared for the event all throughout the school year. Leading up to the parade, they spent eight days touring the city, experiencing British culture and visiting popular landmarks.

The trip was originally planned for 2021 by former band parent Franci Gargaro, but COVID-19 postponed the event twice before this year. Though some students graduated and missed the opportunity, newcomers were able to gain confidence and experience by performing in front of the large crowd.

Of the 205 people that went on the trip, 85 were regiment performers and 120 were guests, including family and friends of the performers. Principal Michelle Kefford accompanied the regiment as well.

To prepare for the trip, the Eagle Regiment held six, two-hour rehearsals, practicing for approximately 12 hours in total. Rehearsals occurred during competition season as well, so those that attended the trip participated in extra practices.

On Dec. 27, 2022, performers and family flew from Florida to London. After arriving, players were able to partake in activities and explore tourist attractions. Students went on tours around the city and toured Windsor Castle, exploring British landmarks. On New Year’s Eve, the regiment went on a boat tour and visited a science museum before celebrating with another band from Fleming Island.

“It was really awesome getting able to experience a new culture with all my friends and performing,” head drum major Kelley Taylor said. “Seeing everybody’s faces when we were performing was just an incredible experience.”

The morning of London’s New Year’s Day Parade, crowds lined up behind metal barricades to celebrate the new year and cheer on participants in the parade.

The event occurred for three hours during the day, starting at 1 p.m. for those in England and at 8 a.m. for those watching in America. There were 500,000 visitors and over 500 million television viewers watching the band march from Regent Street to Whitehall, according to the Evening Standard. Mixed in with the travelers and locals were loved ones from home who cheered them on through the march.

I thought it was probably one of the highlights of my career… doing that I think was one of the best things that Stoneman Douglas has ever done.

— band director Steve Rivero

Flying colors and streamers fell from the sky as the MSD Eagle Regiment marched through the streets of London. Throughout the parade, performers from MSD played “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond while the color guard flipped inflatable disco balls. Virtual audiences got a clear picture of the Eagle Regiment on Trafalgar Square near the end of the broadcast, where they briefly stopped to perform one of their most prominent songs of the season, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

“London was a lot of fun,” sophomore and bass drum player Kc Nikaj said. “It was fun getting to hang out with all my friends and the band in a different environment.”

Going to London was especially bittersweet for seniors in the band who were performing at their last big band event. While there still are some competitions and events later in the year, the parade was a milestone in their careers.

“I’m ready to leave high school, but I’m not ready to leave my family,” Taylor said. “It’s just really emotional, and I hope that I’ll still be connected to my alma mater somehow.”

The Eagle Regiment returned home on Tuesday, Jan. 3 with memories to share and performing experience under their belts.

“I thought that it was probably one of the highlights of my career,” Eagle Regiment Director Steve Rivero said. “A lot of people saying ‘thank you, thank you,’ the whole time, and it was just touching.”

Rivero has been working at MSD since the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. Besides earning the band a state champion title for two years in a row, he is a favorite among students and parents. While hopes are high for a return to London and a potential invitation to the New Year’s Day parade in Rome, the band is currently focused on more timely events.

On Nov. 23, the Eagle Regiment will perform in New York City at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s revealed the news on April 18, 2022, inviting the whole band to attend and perform to represent Florida bands. The team will be one of 10 bands selected to join the recurring Macy’s Great American Marching Band and the NYPD Marching Band.

“Since it’s on the biggest stage in the world, we have to be great; so you know we’ll definitely be practicing more,” Rivero said.

The Eagle Regiment has already started preparing their routine, but will start rehearsing it the first week of November 2023. The trip runs for four days from Nov. 21 to Nov. 24; students will be able to enjoy the big city and perform in the largest parade in the world.

When millions of viewers tune in to the parade on Thanksgiving Day, the Eagle Regiment is planning to pull out all the stops to make their performance show-stopping.

This story was originally published in the February 2023 Eagle Eye print edition.