WCHS students take part in Japan parade

Published 10:00 pm Sunday, July 3, 2016

Two local high school students recently returned from the adventure of a lifetime in Japan.

Warren Central High School students Sarah Chipley and Alexandria Scott participated as members of the Mississippi Lions All-State Band and competed in the annual International Lions Parade Championship held this year in Fuokuoa, Japan.

The band was named champions for the fourth consecutive year and the 32nd time ever after competing with Lions Bands from around the world who were in Japan for the annual International Lions Convention. The band spent nine days in Japan during the last weeks of June.

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“It’s really exciting because you get to see all these people from all these different countries that are just so excited to see you,” Scott said, adding the southern accent really drew people to the band members. Often people requested to take pictures with the students while they ordered food and while they were warming up for competition, which made things entertaining.

“It was overwhelming, but it was funny,” she said.

Scott is a dancer and a rising junior who participated in the band for the first time this year. She said the audition process took about five weeks from the time she was taught the dance, with about three weeks practice and then the two-round auditions.

At the first audition dancers perform the prepared dance and are ranked, which indicated if they came back for the second round.

“I had hurt my hamstring earlier, like a week or so before, and I was really nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to dance,” she said. “But I danced anyway and I made fifth chair for callback.”

The next week Scott returned with a still weak hamstring for the second audition where she preformed the same prepared dance and then learned a new dance on the spot to perform.

“And that’s how they determine whether or not you made it,” she said.

Even though her audition was done by noon, the announcement wasn’t made until late in the afternoon. Scott said her nerves were getting the best of her as she continually called her mom to help calm her down.

“I made fourth chair dancer overall, and I was pretty shocked,” she said.

Warren Central High School band director Alan Arendale said he helps his students prepare for the band’s auditions. He knows how difficult it can be to be one of 800 students trying out for the 145-member band.

“I’m extremely proud of them. It takes a great amount of commitment to participate in the band,” Arendale said. “They represented us well.”

Vicksburg Lions Club president Susan Johnston is proud of the strong tradition the band has had year after year with extraordinary students bringing home the championship, and she is delighted of the commitment of the Lions Clubs to the band.

“Mississippi has one of the strongest support systems of a Lions All-State Band in the country,” she said. “We budget money every year to give to the students for spending.”

The band was able to visit Tokyo and Hiroshima among other places and spent time at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Tokyo Disney.

“It was pretty funny because all the songs were in Japanese so it was hard to understand but you could catch a couple of key words,” she said.

Scott said she went to Hawaii last year with her high school band and visiting Japan this year really brought the events of World War II into focus for her.

“It completed it for me, the entire experience,” she said.

Scott plans to audition again next year, which will be the band’s 100-year anniversary.