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UTSA Marching Band Takes Unprecedented French Trip For D-Day Commemoration

Kris Rodriguez
UTSA's Spirit of San Antonio marching band.

The 70th anniversary of D-Day (June 6) is fast approaching and UTSA’s marching band, the Spirit of San Antonio, will be heading to France for ceremonies there.

"The UTSA Spirit of San Antonio was given the honor and privilege of being the premiere ensemble of Sainte-Mère-Église," explained Ron Ellis, director of bands at UTSA.

Sainte-Mère-Église was one of the first towns liberated by the Allies in the D-Day invasion. The city will be the focus of many D-Day commemorations.

"As a history major this is a really big deal for me," said Thomas Humerick, who plays bass clarinet. "I’m just really excited to be doing that.”

"With this major event approaching, what are you thinking?” I asked him.

“I’m thinking, 'don’t mess up!' It’s a really big deal," Humerick said. "Usually university bands aren’t invited to do this at all, so it’s a huge deal, unprecedented.”

They’ll be playing and marching in several locations on their self-funded trip, including Paris. Ellis lays out the music they’ll be playing:

"The 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'... 'Stars and Stripes Forever' might be in there... we might do a little jazz stuff, a little bit of Gershwin," Ellis said. "We’re the only group playing the national anthems from France and America."

Ellis’s message to his students before leaving is this:

"This is going to change you for the better. You’re going to come back from this experience a better human, a more rounded human, a more cognizant human," he said.

Humerick reflected on how young men his age in 1944 were asked to give all.

“There was a war going on. They left their university, just like that, and they got in these boats and the minute those doors opened, a lot of them ceased to exist," he said. "I couldn't imagine just getting up and leaving UTSA to be shipped half way across the world with a rifle.