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Marching 110 kicks off summer with its own ‘Tour de France’ (PHOTOS)

10-day trip included performances at Normandy, Eiffel Tower, Disneyland Paris


The “Most Exciting Band in the Land” kicked the summer off with one of its most exciting adventures to date. 

Ohio University’s Marching 110 took its distinguished sound and style to France earlier this month, spending May 1-10 entertaining crowds in some of the country’s most notable locations while also taking time to explore some of Europe’s most famous landmarks. 

“We had so much fun on our trip to Ireland and Italy in 2013 that we really wanted to do another international trip. It gives the students an opportunity to travel and to be exposed to other cultures,” explained Richard Suk, a professor of music education in OHIO’s School of Music who just completed his 20th year serving as director of the Marching 110. Suk noted that France generally does not have marching bands. “So it’s a treat to perform for them.”

According to Suk, 196 of the more than 240 members of the Marching 110 participated in the trip. They were joined by Josh Boyer, assistant director of the Marching 110; Andrew Trachsel, OHIO’s director of bands; Chris Hayes, director of the School of Music; band alumni; and family members. All told, 283 individuals traveled with the OHIO group.

Members of Ohio University’s Marching 110, along with nearly 90 individuals who joined the band on its recent trip to France, pose for a photo outside of the Louvre in Paris.

Members of Ohio University’s Marching 110, along with nearly 90 individuals who joined the band on its recent trip to France, pose for a photo outside of the Louvre in Paris. One of the world’s largest and most visited museums, the Louvre houses some of the world’s most famous masterpieces, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”  

In an effort to prepare the students for the trip, the Marching 110 partnered with OHIO’s Office of Global Opportunities. That academic partnership resulted in Marching 110 members participating in a three-hour class Thursday nights during spring semester. Each class was broken down into an hour devoted to French history, an hour dedicated to French lessons and an hour of music preparation for the Marching 110’s performances.

“We hadn’t done that for our trip to Ireland and Italy, so it made this trip much more educational,” Suk said. “The students knew what they were seeing when we went to a site like the Louvre; they knew which paintings they wanted to look for. … All the sites around Paris that we saw, they knew something about it before we ventured there.”

One of the class’ lessons was devoted to helping members of the Marching 110 prepare for their first appearance in France – a somber and moving performance on May 3 at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe during World War II. Don Jakeway, a 93-year-old World War II veteran from Johnstown, Ohio, visited the classes to share his experiences in the war. Jakeway parachuted into Normandy, France, in June 1944 – one of more than 160,000 Allied troops who landed on the beaches of Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion. 

“He had pictures and drawings of what happened, and he talked about his experience that day,” Suk said. “It added more meaning for the students when they got to Normandy.”

The Marching 110 performs before a crowd at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The Marching 110 performs before a crowd at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Known for its lively and upbeat performances, the Marching 110 adopted a more solemn tone for this particular engagement – one filled with patriotism and reverence as the members of band performed before a sea of nearly 10,000 white crosses marking the final resting place for American servicemen and women. The band’s repertoire that day included “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Battle Hymn Chorale” and “America the Beautiful.”

“It was an incredibly moving experience to perform there,” Suk said.

Members of the Marching 110 pose for a photo following their performance at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Members of the Marching 110 pose for a photo following their performance at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. In the center of the photo is a 22-foot-tall bronze statue titled “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves,” a tribute to the American servicemen who landed on nearby Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, during the D-Day invasion of World War II.

The following day the Marching 110 brought its talents to one of Paris’ premier attractions – the Eiffel Tower. 

Upon arriving to the site, the band was greeted by a French couple and their two children who had taken the day off from work and school to see the Marching 110, which they had been following over the Internet, perform. The family came to the Eiffel Tower performance with signs that read, “Welcome to Marching 110” and “OHIO.”

“It was great,” Suk said of the family. “They had a blast seeing the band.”

Ohio University’s Marching 110 poses for a photo marking the pinnacle moment in its trip to France, a May 4 performance at Paris’ most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower.

Ohio University’s Marching 110 poses for a photo marking the pinnacle moment in its trip to France, a May 4 performance at Paris’ most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower.

The band’s final performance came on May 5 when it entertained crowds at Disneyland Paris. The Marching 110 paraded down the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA, treating the onlookers to everything from the OHIO fight song “Stand Up and Cheer” to the popular hit “Uptown Funk.”

With its work complete, the Marching 110 was now free to take in the sights and sounds of Paris and beyond. The group toured everything from the Louvre to the Palace of Versailles to Sacré-Coeur. Approximately 220 members of the OHIO group took advantage of an optional daytrip to London. 

The trip concluded with a nighttime dinner cruise on the Seine River where the group was treated to some iconic views of the Eiffel Tower all lit up and the opportunity to see a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

“Everyone had a pretty good taste of France while we were there,” Suk said.

Led by Director Richard Suk and Assistant Director Josh Boyer, the Marching 110 parades down Main Street USA during the band’s May 5 performance at Disneyland Paris.

Led by Director Richard Suk and Assistant Director Josh Boyer, the Marching 110 parades down Main Street USA during the band’s May 5 performance at Disneyland Paris. 

Suk said the trip included many highlights for him, including the performances at Normandy and the Eiffel Tower. But it was something that happened when the group first arrived in Paris that also stood out for him. 

Buses picked up members of the OHIO delegation upon their arrival in Paris, and Suk noted that the bus he was on took a route into the city that didn’t allow its passengers to see the Eiffel Tower until it was right there in front of them. 

“Boom, there it was,” he said. “I loved watching the students, just the joy on their faces of seeing it and taking pictures of it for the first time. That’s a cool thing when you see students experience something they are always going to remember.”

For members of the Marching 110, the trip to France marked many firsts, and some lasts.

Emmyrae Watson, a mellophone player who’s been a member of the Marching 110 for the past three seasons, flew out to Paris just one day after graduating from OHIO with a degree in music education. The trip marked her first adventure overseas and her final performance with the Marching 110.

“The highlight of my trip has to be performing with the Eiffel Tower as our backdrop,” Watson of Springfield, Ohio, said. “We weren’t sure how the Paris crowd would respond to our performance style, but they took it better than we could have imagined. They were grooving along with us with smiles on their faces. Even the police officers were trying to get to the front to take pictures of us!”

Ohio University’s Marching 110 brings a little Bobcat spirit to Disneyland Paris, performing OHIO’s fight song, “Stand Up and Cheer,” while parading down Main Street USA.

Ohio University’s Marching 110 brings a little Bobcat spirit to Disneyland Paris, performing OHIO’s fight song, “Stand Up and Cheer,” while parading down Main Street USA.

The trip to France was Heidi Kranz’s third trip abroad, but her first international experience with the Marching 110. An incoming senior majoring in strategic communication, Kranz is a trumpet player entering her fourth year with the Marching 110. This past year, she served on the band’s uniform staff; next fall, she will be one of the band’s three dance commanders.

“The highlight of the trip for me was definitely our performance at the Eiffel Tower,” Kranz of Patton, Pennsylvania, said. “While we were grooving and dancing around, we had little opportunities to turn around and see the Eiffel Tower right behind us, and it was truly breathtaking every time.” 

Kranz said she was also moved by the French family who greeted the band with welcome signs. 

“The boy wants to play trumpet,” she said, “and it brought me to tears to think of the opportunities the Marching 110 has given me, to even meet that little boy and hopefully inspire him to pursue his dream of joining a marching band – hopefully our band – in the future.”

Ranga Munasinghe, a senior from Charleston, West Virginia, who is majoring in music education and plays the trumpet in the Marching 110, helps a young French boy and fan of the band try on his hat.

Ranga Munasinghe, a senior from Charleston, West Virginia, who is majoring in music education and plays the trumpet in the Marching 110, helps a young French boy and fan of the band try on his hat. The boy and his family welcomed the Marching 110 to its Eiffel Tower performance.

Kranz said the biggest thing she is taking away from the trip to France is a commitment to take advantage of every opportunity afford her.

“I love traveling, especially traveling abroad, and the Marching 110 gave me the opportunity to continue my dream of traveling the world,” she said. “Not only that, but the people that I have met in this group and the experiences we share are truly blessings. You don’t find that just anywhere, but I found that with the Marching 110. Who else can say they went to France with over 150 of their friends?”

While her performances in France marks her last with the Marching 110, Watson said she has a lot of gratitude for the experience. 

“It meant more to me than words can describe,” she said. “As both a musician and a student, the 110 has given me opportunities and experiences that I will hold very close to my heart, and I’m thankful for my finale performance being overseas.”

When asked what he hoped the members of the Marching 110 took away from this trip, Suk noting the bonding experience that hopefully occurs when a group travels together.

“It bonds the band and makes it more of a cohesive unit,” he said. “And I think it also endears them to the band and to Ohio University. It’s something they will always remember even after they graduate, and hopefully it will be a highlight of their time here.”

Marching 110 members (from left) Caitlin Coulson, Cecelia Morgenstern and Madison Tennant pose for a picture during a dinner cruise on the Seine River, marking the band’s final night in Paris.

Marching 110 members (from left) Caitlin Coulson, Cecelia Morgenstern and Madison Tennant pose for a picture during a dinner cruise on the Seine River, marking the band’s final night in Paris. 

The trip to France marks the beginning of a two-year celebration honoring the 50th anniversary of when Gene Thraillkill assumed leadership of the Marching 110. Thraillkill implemented changes that paved the way for today’s Marching 110, deemed the nation’s best college marching band by CollegeSports-fans.com in 2014 and 2007.

The two-year celebration will culminate with the Marching 110’s third appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® in November 2017.