About this iReport
  • Not verified by CNN

  • Click to view District49's profile
    Posted November 7, 2015 by
    Peyton, Colorado
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Impact Your World

    More from District49

    Marching Band Creates Harmony In Cultural Connections

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (Nov. 7, 2015) — As nearly 100 groups from local schools, Junior ROTC units, military bases and veterans’ organizations lined up Nov. 7 on Tejon Street, the early brisk air warmed around a community in celebration. Within a high school marching band, cultural experiences unfolded.

    “There are a lot of people here,” said Nattasitth Yamasmit, an 11th-grader at Sand Creek High School in District 49. Under the theme “Honoring the Military Family — It Takes a Team,” the Colorado Springs Veterans Day parade was the first time he marched along sidewalks packed with cheering spectators.

    “I’m not a military person, but I know these people are,” said Nattasitth, 16, who had paraded on streets in Thailand, but for much smaller groups, and much warmer weather. As the morning struggled to achieve 40-degrees Fahrenheit, it was midnight and over 80 degrees in Bangkok, where Nattasitth traveled from in July.

    “It’s good to support them,” he said, after performing a collection of patriotic songs with the Sand Creek High School marching band during the Veterans Day parade. “They love their lands, and they do a really hard job being in the military.”

    Of the more than 445,000 residents of Colorado Springs, at least 52,000 are veterans, according to U.S. Census Bureau. The Front Range community includes several military bases, like Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the Air Force Academy.

    A couple of Nattasitth’s middle school teachers had traveled to the United States. They praised its support of high school marching bands. Now on Tejon Street, wearing a red, white and blue uniform and holding a marching baritone, facing colorful crowds waiving patriotic flags, he took in the experience.

    “It’s a totally different experience here,” said Nattasitth, who believes variety is required to become a professional musician. While taking high school classes though the College of Music at Mahidol University in Nakhon Pathom, a two-hour bus ride west of Bangkok, he seized an offer for a year of high school in the United States.

    “Jazz is a totally different style of playing — it makes me play a few notes higher, ” he said about playing a trombone in a jazz ensemble at Sand Creek High School.

    In the marching band, Nattasitth is one of three foreign exchange students.

    While rehearsing with cymbals ahead of the Veterans Day parade, 11th-grader Yoon Chan Lee of Seoul, South Korea, said, “I hadn’t done marching before, standing in line, guiding people. It’s really interesting, the marching; it’s like military, or robots.”

    Yoon Chan, 16, arrived last December, and also enrolled in school for a year. He played keyboard and piano in South Korea, but had never participated in a marching band. During field performances, he’s refining his talents with a vibraphone.

    “Culturally, we’re different. But math, science, music — it’s all the same,” he said.

    Eva Husted of Colorado Springs is Yoon Chan’s host. She’s also a local coordinator for Education, Travel and Culture, a Portland-based company that connects with sending organizations overseas and assists with student visas.

    Local coordinators interview host families to match their interests with a student. Husted has coordinated visits for a dozen students, as well as hosted three.

    “They all really want to be here, to be involved,” said Husted. “They want to make American friends, and they often make friends for life. Now they have a friend in America, and America has a friend in Korea or Germany.”

    Husted says her former exchange student from South Korea is planning to visit a friend in Germany, which she met at Sand Creek High School.

    “Schools really support them, because it gives all students a world view,” said Husted. “They learn about the cultures from the people level, rather than the political. It’s about being an ambassador at the home level.”

    When Louisa Trappe, 15, of Frankfurt, Germany, mentioned her talents with a piano, Husted suggested the marching band. Louisa arrived in Colorado Springs in July, and enrolled in 10th grade at Sand Creek High School. She joined the band, knowing she hadn’t previously participated in an organized music program.

    “I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Louisa. “I’ve been playing piano for six years, but in Germany we don’t have marching band. Piano is normally a solo instrument, so I hadn’t played in a group.” When she’s not marching with cymbals, Louisa plays piano for field performances, as well as the school’s jazz band.

    “Music is something you can always understand,” said Louisa. “Even if something is different, it doesn’t have to be bad. I think different is good. Different brings variety, and variety means more experiences. Experience makes you wiser.”

    “We’re all going to have great stories to tell,” she said. “Kids are asking about our schools, what’s different. So it’s not just that we learn about the culture here, we can teach about our culture. It’s not a one-way thing. It’s an exchange.”

    During the parade, Louisa proudly displayed her musical progress, describing a team effort, while Yoon Chan said of the crowds: “I help them feel the beat. Cymbals are high frequency, so it makes the music louder, deeper — it gives it more room.”

    Nattasitth says he appreciated the cheering and shouting: “It made me want to play more. They’re having fun, and that’s good.”

    After an evaluation against other area high school marching bands of similar sizes, Sand Creek High School earned first place during the Veterans Day parade. The band returns to Tejon Street in December for the Festival of Lights parade.

    For Nattasitth, the festival may be the first time he touches snow. But the idea of freezing temperatures doesn’t distract him from wanting to support his hosts through music. He feels part of Sand Creek High School because of music.

    “When I first came here, they said, ‘come and play with us’,” said Nattasitth. “Now they don’t have to say anything — I just walk in and play.”

    “I know I’m in a band when if I don’t play, you miss part of the music,” he said.

    “Everyone mixes together; we’re all needed to create harmony.”

    Dustin Senger
    School District 49
    Add your Story Add your Story