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Dunedin High band will strut its Scottish stuff on national TV Christmas Day

Dunedin High School’s Scottish Highlander Marching Band traveled to Orlando on Dec. 1 to film its part of a TV special.
Dunedin High School’s Scottish Highlander Marching Band traveled to Orlando on Dec. 1 to film its part of a TV special.
Published Dec. 14, 2012

DUNEDIN — Over the blaring wail of bagpipes and the thumping of drums, band director Ian Black shouldn't have heard the phone ring.

But he did. And it's a good thing, too.

The person on the line, a representative with Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade, was calling to inform him that Dunedin High School's Scottish Highlander Marching Band was one of only two high school bands in the nation chosen to perform in the 29th annual nationally televised event.

On Dec. 1, more than 70 musicians from Dunedin High, Dunedin Highland Middle and Clearwater Fundamental Middle schools traveled to Orlando to tape a special parade segment showcasing Scottish heritage.

The television special — which also features prerecorded appearances by Disney characters, celebrities and professional music artists, and scenes from Disneyland in California — is scheduled to air from 10 a.m. to noon Christmas Day on ABC.

"I was excited for the students because for them this is a really great opportunity," Black said, adding, "I think it will really bring a lot of pride and recognition to our community."

Dunedin High's marching band plays normal instruments like any other, except that the ensemble also includes bagpipers. Band members wear kilts and Scottish military uniforms, and color guard members double as highland dancers.

That unique tradition is what officials say prompted the invitation to play a score from Brave, a recent computer-animated Disney release about a redheaded archer heroine in the Scottish Highlands.

For a week after the initial call, Black says he dropped several hints that the students were "going to make the magic happen." Once details were shored up, Black made the official announcement and "the whole field erupted in cheers and (students) were high-fiving each other," he said.

The band spent four weeks perfecting the musical piece chosen by Disney and submitting regular video updates of their progress.

During taping, Black said the students screamed excitedly at the sight of parade host Nick Cannon. Students were able to enjoy the park following the roughly 90-minute shoot — a real treat for some who had never been to Disney or even outside Pinellas County.

Band sergeant Jacob Hollis, a senior, said in a statement that the experience topped winning first place in last year's Heritage Music Festival following a performance on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

This was "a great way to end my senior year," Hollis said.

Black said he also enjoyed the opportunity to consult Disney composers on the intricacies of writing music for bagpipes and to get a behind-the-scenes look at television production.

"And it's a good moment for me as a director because I know what I'm doing is helping to make the experience of the students in the program that much more meaningful and worthwhile," he said. "This is just one more really great feather that these kids get to put in their caps."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or ksummers@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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