The Houston High School Band performs April 11 at a special competition in Chicago.

All 35 members of the Houston High School Tiger Pride band took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Chicago in April and returned to town with some award hardware to show for it.

The focus of the trip was a competition featuring 27 ensembles from several states (including Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Missouri) that gathered at Chicago’s Plainfield North High School to play short concerts in front of three university band directors –– one from Concordia College in Chicago, one from Nashville’s Belmont University, and one from Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill.

When awards were doled at the conclusion of the performances, the HHS band and director Michael Roy received a silver rating and took third-place from among six bands in the their division (based on band size). The Houston bunch was also singled out from among all 27 bands as winner of the special “Spirit of Chicago Award,” honoring the group that displayed the most respectful attitude, presented themselves with the most dignity, and represented their school and community in the best light possible.

Roy said some of the kids who made the trek had never left Texas County, let alone gone as far away as the shores of the Great Lakes.

“We’re really proud of the kids,” he said. “To go as far away from Houston as we did and have them receive the recognition they did for being of such good character and representing their school the way they did is really exciting,” Roy said. “It’s great recognition for the kids and for the school.”

While in the Windy City, HHS band members enjoyed visiting several landmarks and attractions. They toured legendary Wrigley Field (home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs), where they learned about the creation of the stadium in 1914, traveled down Michigan Avenue –– also known as the “Magnificent Mile” –– for some shopping and sight-seeing, and bravely rode the speedy elevator to the top of the 103-story Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), where some intrepid students dared to step out of the building on a clear plexiglass enclosed platform to observe the Chicago streets more than 1,000 feet below.

“It’s pretty creepy,” Roy said. “And when you go up there, it’s one of the fastest elevators in the world. It basically gets the 103rd story in about 15 seconds.”

The Houston contingent also went to Lincoln Park Zoo, experienced some real Chicago-style pizza at Gino’s East Pizza and attended a performance of the world renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Riccardo Muti, performing J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor (the last great work of J.S. Bach before his death in 1750).  

Roy and company completed a day of sightseeing by visiting the famous Navy Pier on Lake Michigan, where students were occupied with a 150-foot ferris wheel and other unusual attractions. The group finished out the trip at a Medieval Times dinner and tournament. 

“Special thanks to Dr. David Phipps, Bank of Houston, Progressive Bank, Jim Root, McDonald’s, Edward Jones Co, Shelter Insurance, State Farm, and Stockard Insurance, for helping purchase tickets to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance and providing a memory that our students will never forget,” Roy said.

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