Colony High School’s marching band is headed to France for a major performance.

The group was selected to play at events in and around Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the day the Allies invaded Western Europe in World War II.

On Friday, the students held their last practice, marching around Colony’s track. All of their performances in France will be done without any sheet music.

"If you just start playing and go all the way to the end, it's 27 minutes. And they memorized every single note,” said director Jamin Burton.

It’s not just Colony kids who will be representing Alaska. The band invited students from schools around the Mat-Su Valley to perform with them.

Burton said they have a handful of students from Redington, Palmer and Houston.

Trumpeter Brittyn Werner just finished her sophomore year at neighboring Palmer High School. She said she’d always wanted to be in marching band but only recently got the opportunity after Palmer High started its own.

“It’s a lot of hard work and I’ve only been playing my instrument for about eight months, so really practicing every day, hours upon hours and trying to learn the music was the hardest thing for me,” Werner said.

Their song selection includes patriotic music like Battle Hymn of the Republic. On D-Day, the students will play with other bands from around the U.S. in a mass performance.

Burton said on June 8, they’ll perform in a parade around Sainte-Mère-Église, the first village liberated on June 6, 1944. Their last performance will be at a World War I cemetery in Meuse-Argonne.

After their music practice at school, the students have also had history lessons on WWI and WWII so they know the importance of the events they’re commemorating.

“I think it’s vital that we all know exactly what’s going on and what happened before we go over there,” said Colony trumpet player Malcolm Tucker. “Otherwise we wouldn’t feel the true experience of D-Day, and we wouldn’t feel all of the emotions and the invigorating power of everything that’s going on.”

Burton said that was an important aspect of getting the students prepared for such a historical event.

“Very shortly there's not going to be very many WWII veterans left alive and these stories, if we don’t teach them, are going to disappear,” Burton said.

It’s the trip of a lifetime for many of the band members and the excitement was starting to sink in at their last rehearsal.

“Everyone is feeling pretty tense and full of energy. There’s lots of emotion going on but it’s all happy,” Tucker said.

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