GHS band headed to nation's capital

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The Gorham High School Concert Band and two bands from Gorham Middle School will perform in “All Gorham Band Night,” a free concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, in the high school auditorium.

For the high school band, the concert will be a tune up for the 70 band members going on a road trip to Washington, D.C. There, it will be a Maine representative in the National Festival of States.

The band, directed by Raymond Mathieu, will play at the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home and at the World War II Memorial on Saturday, April 16. On the following day, they will perform at the Lincoln Memorial.

With this year commemorating the 150th birthday of legendary bandleader John Philips Sousa, who was famous for marching music, the Gorham band will play four marches in their Washington appearances. But the National Festival of States is not a competition. “It’s performance oriented,” Mathieu said.

Four Gorham students will be selected to participate in a wreath laying at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, April 15. Band members will also tour historic sites and visit museums and war memorials besides a dinner cruise on the Potomac River.

Gorham High School senior Josh Lortie, who plays tenor sax, has been in the high school band for four years. While in Washington, D.C., he will visit American University, where he plans to continue his education. “Playing a lot of marches,” Lortie said, describing what kind of music the band would play in the three concerts in the festival.

Lortie said the Potomac cruise would be exciting while another senior Joe Mellone, who also has been in the band four years, said he was looking forward to visiting the Smithsonian Institute to “check out” the Air and Space Museum. Mellone is interested in World War II aviation.

The band will be in Washington for three days. “It’ll be busy but a lot of fun,” said Mellone, who plays baritone sax. “We’ll either be playing or going on tour non stop.”

Becky Muller, a junior who has played with the band for three years, also looks forward to visiting the museums. The festival will be special for Muller, who plays the flute and piccolo, as family and friends in Washington will be in audiences when she plays.

“I’m excited to play, and I’ve never been to D.C.,” she said. “It’ll be a lot of fun.

The Gorham High School Band performed for the Nation’s Capital Bicentennial Celebration five years ago. Mathieu, who has taught at Gorham High School for 27 years, said the trips have marked the first time some students had ventured outside the state. He schedules trips so that each student has an opportunity in four years of high school to go on a trip. But in 2003, the SARS scare canceled a band trip to Toronto.

“That was a nightmare. We had to cancel a week before we were to leave,” Mathieu said. “One class never got to go on a trip. That killed me.”

Lortie, Mellone and Muller were slated to go to Toronto. “We almost missed out,” Lortie said of the opportunity for a trip.

The band and Mathieu, with 10 other adults, will leave Gorham High School in two buses at 11 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, and will arrive in Washington, D.C., at noon the following day.

Officials and tour guides will greet the group when they arrive. They’ll stay at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel.

They’ll depart Washington at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 18, the day spring school vacation begins. The Gorham students will only miss one day of school.

The trip is costing $52,000. The cost covers everything, but students will have to buy their own lunch each day. Donations from parents augmented fundraisers, but students earned much of the trip. The harsh winter this year provided an opportunity to fund their journey. “Some made money shoveling snow,” Mathieu said.

Mathieu’s wife, Kim, is in her 20th year as band director for elementary and middle school students in Gorham. “She does the hard work and makes me look good,” Mathieu said.

The couple has two children. Their daughter, Kathryn, who played trombone, graduated last year. She is now in New York for a national competition in equine dressage. Their son, Peter, is a sophomore at Gorham High School who plays hockey and lacrosse and plays the trombone in the concert and jazz bands.

Andrew Wojtal sits between Josh Lortie and Joe Mellone, on the right, as the Gorham High School Concert Band practices on Monday for three performances in the National Festival of States that begins next week in Washington, D.C.

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