Juneau-Douglas High School musicians rallied from a gut-wrenching illness to score well Saturday at a music festival in Florida.
The 38 students who traveled as the Festival Band to the Heritage Music Festival in Orlando scored the highest of three bands that participated, said officials from WorldStrides, the company that ran the event.
Six bands canceled because they didn't want to travel during the war in Iraq, said festival director Greg Pearson. Juneau's was the only band competing in its size category, so it didn't win a category award. But Juneau was granted the Outstanding Band Group Trophy for its high rating, which was more than 90 on a 1-100 scale, he said.
About 15 students and several chaperones early in the nearly week-long trip came down with a virus that made them nauseated and feverish, and some were treated at hospital emergency rooms, said Juneau music teacher and band leader Ken Guiher. Nonetheless, all but two students were able to play in Saturday's competition at a high school, he said.
"They did it. They pulled it off," Guiher said. "Alaska stamina. I'm really proud of it."
While in Orlando, the band attended a music clinic at The Walt Disney Co.'s Epcot Center, where students had to learn a piece of cartoon background music quickly. And the group played at an outdoor stage at Epcot Center for about 20 minutes.
At the competition and at Epcot the Juneau band played a military-band suite by Gustav Holst and "Hounds of Spring" by Alfred Reed, a contemporary American composer.
JDHS junior Alex Goese-Goble, who plays the baritone saxophone, said he liked performing for audiences out of state. Juneau student musicians generally play at festivals only in Alaska.
"We played at Epcot Center, which is something you have to audition for. Not everyone who auditions gets to play at Epcot," he said.
Senior Meg Griffin, a piccolo player, said playing at the festival gave her a different perspective on her music.
"There's so much more insight. Our adjudicators have seen some of the best bands all over the world," she said.
"It kind of made me feel like I should work harder," said junior Colleen Windom, a flutist, "because there are way better bands."
Altogether, the students raised about $60,000 to make the trip, Guiher estimated. Besides thanking donors, he praised two chaperones who happened to be nurses - Wilma Cooper and Anne Akstin.
"We really needed them," he said.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.