CEDAR FALLS | The University of Northern Iowa Panther Marching Band will ring in the new year in the Old World.
The band has been asked to march in the 2015 London New Year's Day Parade on Jan. 1.
Duncan Sandys, the great-grandson of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Mayor of Westminster, extended an official invitation this week.
"They contacted me out of the blue. ... We're really excited about it," said Danny Galyen, director of the UNI marching band.
Marching bands are unique to the U.S., developing from sporting events and military units into a collegiate tradition, Galyen said. In England, military units showcase marching bands, but there's not a prolific amount in colleges or high schools.
To Galyen's knowledge, this is the first time the UNI marching band has performed internationally.
"We have a number of students that have never flown before or been out of country, so they're really excited to go," he said.
A selection committee of top-tier music educators made recommendations about which bands to invite. Thousands of featured performers from around the world will march past iconic Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster through Piccadilly Circus and other historical markers. The parade attracts twice as many spectators as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York, according to the parade website.
Students who choose to attend will spend Dec. 27 through Jan. 3 in London, touring famous nearby landmarks like Stonehenge. Many are already saving to pay for the $3,100 journey.
Laura Rodriguez, a junior music education major, found a night job washing dishes in the UNI dining hall to help fund the adventure.
"Immediately, I thought, I need to go on this trip," she said.
Rodriguez is one of four drum majors who direct music and lead the band. "I might be a little biased, but I think we have the best marching band in the state," she said.
Galyen said anyone interested in donating to the band to help students pay for this trip can contact him at 273-2173 or email@example.com.