GREAT BAND: The Pride of Owasso will entertain visitors at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California as well as a national television audience on New Year’s day.
By L. JONES
At this time next year, The Pride of Owasso High School marching band will be packing their bags and preparing for a sixth performance at the Tournament of Roses Parade, but until then they will be raising more than half a million dollars for the trip.
Band Director Chris Harris says early projections for the cost of the trip are at $625,000 if the band flies its 375 members to Pasadena, California.
“The early projections are $1,400 per kid if we ride the bus and about $2,000 per kid if we fly,” Harris said. “The overall math puts you at about $450,000 for the bus and over $600,000 to fly, rounded off. I think it’s about $625,000 and those are just early projections from one bid I received.”
Harris was notified of the band’s invitation to appear in the 2020 New Years Day parade on Oct. 8, when he received a call from Tournament of Roses Parade President Laura Farber and the selection committee. The students were ecstatic when they learned of the invitation by video during a special announcement at the Owasso Homecoming Game on Oct. 12.
It’s Harris’ goal to raise enough money so that every one of his band members can afford to be a part of this most prestigious honor. He spoke at the Owasso Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon on Nov. 7 in an effort to gain the support of area business leaders.
“Right now, we are hoping we can get some sponsorship support with some bigger amounts,” he said. “Once again, I don’t want any kid to sit at home. This is a once in a lifetime thing and I don’t want anybody to not go because he or she can’t afford it. So, anything we can do to lower that overall cost per kid is a bonus.”
Harris commended the Owasso district and the community for the support the band continues to receive every year.
“All of the pieces are in place in Owasso for things like this to happen, we’ve got great administrative and community support and great teachers and students,” Harris said. “You don’t get opportunities like this unless you’ve got all-out community support to give the kids the things that they need to be successful.”
Harris and the Pride of Owasso most assuredly have the support of Owasso Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Fichtner. She’s known Harris since 1992 when he was a first-year band instructor at Broken Arrow.
“Many years ago in a galaxy far away, in another school district, I had two children who were 20 months apart in age and both of them learned to play drums from this man, and I haven’t forgiven him for that,” she said with a laugh.
Then she said, “I remember my son saying, ‘Mom, Mr. Harris cares about me,’”
Fitchner says she knew that even as a first-year teacher, Harris was making a big impact on the life of her son.
In her first year as Superintendent of Owasso Public Schools, Fitchner said the community’s commitment to the fine arts was one aspect that drew her to the Owasso district.
“When I first applied in 2015 for the position of Assistant Superintendent, I had done my research and I knew that the fine arts program was alive and well in the community. That was something that resonated in my spirit,” she said.
Once a part of the Owasso Public School District, Fitchner saw behind the scenes what is required for these programs to succeed.
“I saw parents working in concession stands and business people discretely making donations,” she said. “But I also saw the reality that a school district has to be committed to funding excellence.”
Harris already has a number of fundraising opportunities scheduled for his students such as concession stands at varsity events, a golf tournament, a 5K race, poinsettia sales, and firework stand sales in the summer.
With six invitations, The Pride of Owasso has participated in more Tournament of Roses Parades than any other Oklahoma school. In fact, only two other schools outside of California, Ben Davis High School in Indiana and Blue Springs High School in Missouri, have an equal number of invitations.
Owasso participated in the 1985, 1989, 1995, 2004 and 2011 Tournament of Roses Parades.
Looking ahead, Fitchner says these types of opportunities not only benefit the students who will be marching in the parade in 2020 but also younger students in the district.
“For the younger students, they are always looking just a bit ahead of them,” she said. “A third grader looks at a fifth grader, a fifth grader looks at a seventh grader, and a seventh grader looks at a high school student. So for a young person to have an incredible role model that is just a few years ahead of them is very inspirational.
Sometimes parents can become like Charlie Brown’s teacher and encouraging words can be tuned out by their children.
“But when they see a young person, and they see the opportunities not just to travel to Pasadena, but to be on the Friday night field, those young people have an example of someone who has gone before them.
If they’ve not imagined that they are capable of doing something like that, but they see a real-life hero or a neighbor doing it, it puts a realm of possibility out there for them that they may not have known existed.
“It’s very exciting for me to know that while we have great adult role models, those young people are day-to-day role models that help a young person dream and that’s what happens every day in our classrooms at Owasso,” Fitchner concluded.
For more information about The Pride of Owasso or to donate go to www.owassorose2020.com.