AMHERST – It was a joyful return to Amherst. A police cruiser led two buses as they pulled up to the front of Amherst Regional High School. A crush of students lined the sidewalk to welcome members of the ARHS senior band back from Boston.
“We’re very pleased,” said Matt O’Toole, one of two vice-principals at the school.
“The students and staff involved have put a lot of effort into it. We couldn’t be happier for them.”
The cause for celebration was the success enjoyed by the band at the Boston Festivals of Music. According to music teacher Stephanie Mizuik, the band was given a superior rating and took first place in the concert band ‘A’ division. The band also received the only Spirit of the Heart Award given in the competition.
“The kids were fabulous,” she said.
The students were sterling representatives of the school, the town and themselves, according to Mizuik.
“Ohmigod, it was so much fun,” said Heather Bacon, a student who went on the trip.
Standing with Bacon after debarking from the bus was fellow band member Sadie Jacobs-Peters. The bombing at the Boston Marathon didn’t weigh on the student during the trip.
“It didn’t affect us at all,” she said.
Tim Peters, Sadie’s father, admitted he was a little stressed about the trip’s destination.
“We obviously followed the story…,” he said.
But he agreed with the sentiment security in Boston would likely be higher than elsewhere in the wake of the incident, and said he was “envious” of the great trip the students had enjoyed. The father gave an endorsement of the value a an international trip to a big city can have for students.
“I think it’s very important…,” he said.
A parent chaperone, Kelli Cheverie, said it was a wonderful trip.
“They’re so excited,” she said of the band members.
Gillian Moore, a percussionist, provided a verbal account of the band’s busy itinerary. In addition to competing, they stopped at Harvard, the Salem Witch Museum and the Boston Aquarium. They had two tours of the city, and took in a theatrical production as well as a performance by the Blue Man Group.
“I had a great time,” she said.
More than 1,000 students participated in the festivals, according to Mizuik. She said other than a memorial area downtown, there was little sign of April’s mayhem. She said the crowd shouted “U-S-A” at a baseball game, but she thought that might happen normally.