Written by Celeste Brooks. Photos by Cindy Rodney.

In March of 2000, I was visiting the place where I grew up (Marlboro, NY) and my husband and I were both watching the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade on TV, anxiously waiting to see the cadets from Randolph-Macon Academy. We had just moved to Front Royal, VA, and joined the Academy staff in mid-1999. This was our first opportunity to see the students in an off-campus parade — and on TV! I will never forget the slice of pride that went through me as I saw them come across the screen. For a few seconds, everyone viewing it could see what I get to live every day: some great students coming together to do something pretty amazing.

But why on Earth do these students load onto a bus every year and drive six hours to New York City to perform? Why do it even in the cold and snow? Well, according to Bandmaster Ed Richards and the students at Randolph-Macon Academy, there is something magical about a group of teenagers getting to go to New York City to perform for crowds of people too numerous to count. New York has a pulse of its own on any given day, but on St. Patrick’s Day the beat grows louder and changes a little. The smiles are wider, the camaraderie nearly tangible. It’s like nothing else.

“It’s a lot of energy, good vibes everywhere,” said Maz Khan. Maz is a senior this year at Randolph-Macon Academy, and has been to the NYC parade every year for the last three years—including in 2013, when it was so cold and snowy that the band’s instruments froze and only the drums could perform. “Everyone [at R-MA] enjoys going to the parade because everyone is supportive; they just cheer us on. We love performing for them. It’s fun to perform for a crowd like that.”

Celeste Brooks is the Director of Public Relations at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal, VA.

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