Student heads to Europe for band tour

Published 3:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2016

Melanie Ford, drum major of the Charles Henderson High School Blue Machine, has been invited to join the prestigious West Vancouver Youth Band for its European tour this summer.

Melanie Ford, drum major of the Charles Henderson High School Blue Machine, has been invited to join the prestigious West Vancouver Youth Band for its European tour this summer.

Melanie Ford is so excited that she can hardly contain herself.

But she’s also as nervous as cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

And, what 16-year-old young lady from South Alabama wouldn’t be excited and nervous, both at the same time if she were packing her bags for a trip to Europe with a group of young musicians she doesn’t know?

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

At month’s end, Ford will take a hopscotch flight to Vancouver, Canada, practice a week or so with the West Vancouver Youth Band and then fly 12 hours across the ocean to France. There, and in Switzerland and Germany, she will perform with the WVYB in concerts and immerse herself in the culture of each country.

“I’m excited to be going and nervous about going,” Melanie said. “I’ve never been away from home, my family and my four dogs this long. But I can hardly wait to go.”

This opportunity was born out of a friendship between Douglas Macaulay, WVYB director, and Melanie’s parents, Amanda Ford and Ralph Ford.

“We went to Vancouver and I got to meet Mr. Macaulay,” Melanie said. “He knew that I played French horn and invited me to play with the band.”

When the WVYB concert tour was planned, Macaulay invited Melanie to join the band and she didn’t hesitate.

“This such a great opportunity for me,” she said. “I’ll get to play a concert tour with this really great band and visit three countries. I would never have thought I would have a chance like this.”

For Melanie, it seems like she has been practicing all her young life for a chance like this.

“I’ve always loved the band,” she said. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved the Troy University Sound of the South. When I was in eighth grade, I wanted to be in band but I didn’t know what to play. My mom told me to try the French horn. When I played a note, she said, ‘That’s it!’ and that was it. I love the French horn.”

Melanie is a junior at Charles Henderson High School and will the band’s drum major for the 2016-2017 school year.

“I’ve been working hard to learn all I can about conducting a band,” she said. “There’s a lot to learn and lot to know. I’m excited to be the drum major and looking forward to it.”

But first things first.

“When I get to Vancouver, I’ll stay with a family, the Whytes, while we are practicing and getting ready for the two-week European concert tour. When we are in Europe, we’ll stay in hostiles and with families.”

Melanie’s ancestry is German so she is looking most forward to visiting that country.

“And, the food is awesome,” she said with a smile. “But every place we’ll go will be exciting. We’ll play a lot of public concerts in each country but we’ll also have time for sightseeing. Sometimes we’ll be on our own but a lot of things are planned for us, including a haunted dungeon.”

The band will dress rather casually, with polo shirts and tee shirts with the band’s logo so they will be a presence everywhere they go.

The music the band will play will be traditional American music, primarily marches.

“Mr. Macaulay likes Sousa so we’ll play a lot of his marches,” Melanie said. “I like marches, too. That’s band music.”

From the music to the immersion, the European concert tour will be a highlight of Melanie’s young life.

“This experience will open my eyes to so many things,” Melanie said. “It will make be a better leader and I will benefit from it in all that I do, in band and in school. I’m excited; I’m nervous and that’s such a good feeling.”