A New Year in Italy

Today we hit the ground running to start off our new year. We began with the Stone and tag-along flights taking a walking tour of "Rome Revealed". We got to see sights such as a bridge designed by Michelangelo and the location where Julius Cesar was killed. There was also a large number of cats, which seemed to interest a lot of students. The Bell flight was able to take the panoramic bus tour and walking tour they missed on the first day.

The afternoon contained our group picture in front of the Colosseum and the parade through the streets of Rome. We were a bit rushed as we found out we were first in line and leading the entire parade with a very short amount of time to eat and get organized. Even with the circumstances, the kids put on a great performance that was enjoyed by thousands of locals and tourists. We received a lot of praise along the route and after we finished as well. It was a great experience the students won't soon forget.

Once we got back to the hotel we repacked instruments and uniforms in anticipation for our return home. Everything is set and ready for the trip back to Germantown. Tomorrow is our final full day in Rome with a tour of the Colosseum and a few other favorite sights.

Mr. Stone 

Italy Days 3 and 4

I'll admit that I've lost all concept of what day it is. Things have been quite the whirlwind with everything going on and I literally can't tell you what day of the week it is. Someone said it's Sunday. 

Yesterday began with a trip to the catacombs where Christians worshiped and  buried their dead when Christianity was illegal in Rome. Weaving through the tunnels, we were sometimes 30-40 feet underground. We also got to see some fresco paintings from thousands of years ago. We then traveled to the suburb of Frascati where we performed pep band songs in the squares for locals and visitors. The students were very well received with lots of applause. At night we performed out joint concert with Woodward Academy from Atlanta. It was a tight squeeze for our band, but we made due and the performance went very well. Many locals in attendance offered much praise.

Today was our trip to Pompei. After catching up on sleep during a 3 hour bus ride, students finally got to taste real Italian pizza. It was very good but few could finish even half of the large pizzas we each received. We then spent 2 hours touring the ruins of Pompei. It was incredible to see how well preserved everything was. Even the paintings on the walls still existed. Many students had a great time and got some excellent photos. After dinner, many students attended the dance with all the other bands to ring in the new year. Everyone is now in bed and looking forward to seeing what 2017 has to offer.

Mr. Stone

Italy Day 2...ish.

The Bell flight is almost here!!!! And there was much rejoicing. Yaaaay. The last flight should land in less than an hour and be at the hotel about 1230. We are looking forward to everyone being together again.

For those of us here already, we have an active day with a brief sight seeing bus tour, complete with tour guide, followed by exploration time on foot for Rome sights such as the Pantheon and Trevi Fountains. It was a lot of walking. Some students learned how to read maps and street signs. Others learned they had maps in their bags they received. It all worked out and students seem to really enjoy the bit of freedom they had.

In the afternoon we toured the Vatican. This began with a guided tour followed by free time to explore the main area, as well as St. Peter's. It's incredible to see the overall size and the detail the 2,000 year old buildings. I think many enjoyed it. We also learned how cold it can be when the sun sets. All will be more prepared tomorrow.

Tomorrow will bring our visit to the catacombs and Frascati. This is also a performance day with our pep band tunes and our concert in the evening.

Mr. Stone

Bell Flight at 39,000 feet

Bell Flight Saga.....
On Thursday morning, every room was up and in the hotel lobby at 4:00 am ready to board a bus for New York and JFK Airport. We had 38 passenger limousine buses that I know Riteway has and sometimes see groups using around Germantown. Some of the students/Parents were able to sleep on the bus others were updating their favorite status.

Unfortunately, it was still dark and rainy when we arrived New York. Many of the big and visible sights were just big and not visible. We could see lots of lights and could tell it was a big city, but nothing specific. As a child, my parents would read a book to me called “The Great Gray Bridge and the Little Red Light House.” The bridge is the George Washington Bridge and today, I rode across it. Although I would have rather been in Rome, it was pretty cool. 

For ticketing reasons, we were split into a group of 50 and a group of 18. This was done back in October. American Airlines had a computer issue and needed to reissue tickets to the group of 50. This lead to another delay. They did have a special check in counter for us with six agents working. Eventually, we all got boarding passes. 

TSA agents were able to take us through our own security line. They helped us get through in an orderly and quick pace. But with the ticketing snafu, they had already started seating the plane before we were all through security. Our gate was quite close and all made it with time to use the restroom before boarding. American Airlines did have tables of snacks (chips, cookies, granola bars, fruit, soda, water, juice) for us and we could take them on the plane. 

The plane is a fairly new Boeing 777. The only passengers are band members from Germantown and Manatee High School in Bradenton, FL. They were on our same flight and at a Double Tree hotel near the airport. Each seat as a video screen with 100’s of movies, tv shows, music options and flight information. As soon as were had reached altitude, we were fed a hot meal. The students were able to move about and sit next to their friends. The plane is configured with 3-3-3 or 3-4-3 across seating. Very few of the rows are full.  The flight crew is keeping us out of first class. 

I have been in contact with Mr. Stone and our tour guides in Rome. We are making some changes to the itinerary for later in the week. Our first goal is to make sure everyone gets to visit the Vatican. We all want to make sure the students see the most important sights of Rome. 

Our first full day with all the students is Friday. The performances will happen as planned. It will be a great way to say get the blood going and be back as one band. 

I have been “texting buddy” with the Manatee H.S. band director. It has been frustrating for both schools. Band parents are the same all over the county and his spent Wednesday on social media. Their local news also had coverage of the trip. They told us that we even made the Philadelphia newscast. Social media and news exposure were factors in getting our current flight. 

2 hours to landing. My next post should be written in ROME!!

Mr. Bell

Bell Flight to Rome

Good Evening Band Parents,

I am sending this to everyone since it has been on the news and want to get the most up to date information on the delays of our the Bell flight to Rome. Mr. Stone has the rest of the band members in Rome all set for a day of sight-seeing.  

The big news for today. The Bell flight is finally headed to Rome. The tour company has been negotiating with American Airlines since the flight was canceled and here is the schedule.  All times are local to where the students will be.


3:30 am. - Wake up in Philadelphia.

4:00 am - Board the bus to JFK airport in New York City. It is a 2 hour drive and they are giving us three hours.

9:00 am. Flight #9258 American Airlines. American Airlines added it to the day. It is a Boing 777. It is a direct flight.

Midnight- Arrival in Rome.

The Bell Flight will join the tour for everything on Friday. The Frescati Street festival and the concert.


We have been at the Clarion Hotel. 76 Industrial Highway. Essignton, PA. 19029.

Bobby Andrew, General Manager.

Phone: 610-521-9600x1191.

Email. bandrews@clarionphl.com

This place has been fantastic. They quickly got us to rooms at 3:00 am on Wednesday, when we arrived. They got us food for breakfast, set up a big room to hang out, a projector and speaker to show movies, decks of cards, and cold water to drink. They worked with us to have a private catered 4:00 pm dinner. Chicken, veggies, an excellent roasted potato mix and cheesecake. The staff here was great.

In addition, the kids were also fantastic and rolled with the flow. All are disappointed they didn’t get to Rome on time. They have been hanging with their friends and playing cards. I am very proud of how they have reacted. The tag alongs were just as great in keeping an eye on everyone and helping out wherever needed. I heard “can I help out with anything” so many times.

I admit it has been interesting to follow this on social media. WISN was there for our departure and following us the entire way. WTMJ was second. Later tonight, Fox 6 did contact the school. Thanks to parent calls, I heard from the offices of Rep. Sensenbrenner, Gov. Walker, and Sen. Johnson. Mr. Farren and Mr. Holmes have also been kept up to date with all our travels to make sure the students are safe.  


I also received calls, texts, and notes from parents with helpful comments and suggestions.

There will be more follow up with this “bump” in the road.


Thanks to everyone and I look forward to finally getting to Rome.

Mr. Bell



Rome Tour Day 1....errr...0.75??

Day one has come to a close for our Rome tour. As many have heard by now, it has not been the easiest day, to say the least. Thankfully two of three flights arrived on schedule with no issues. However, Mr. Bell's flight was delayed and eventually cancelled in Philadelphia. Parents and students are on night number 2 in a local hotel there. Everyone involved is less than thrilled, but doing what we can to keep moral up. For those of us in Rome, chaperones were hard at work tonight devising what seemed like plan "D" or even "E". But rest assured that everyone is pulling together to keep things running as smoothly as possible for all. 

A big thank you to everyone one involved, students and adults, for all their patience and cooperation today and the next few days as well. 


Mr. Stone

Bell Flight In PHI.

The Bell Flight had a very uneventful departure from GHS and Chicago. Unfortunately, we are still in Philadelphia. After repeated delays for mechanical issues on the plane, they switched us to a different plane. Before they had that plane ready to travel, the flight crew "timed out" out and could not take our flight to Rome. At roughly 2:30, they officially canceled the flight, put us up in a Clarion Hotel and are working to get our group to Rome. 

There are many people working to solve this problem As we get a solution, we will pass it on to everyone else. Please know that the students on the flight have been fantastic (and disappointed). As one point, Mr. Meinel noted that the students are taking it much better than the adults. 

Hopefully better news will follow. 

Mr. Bell

Less Than A Week!

Our departure for the trip is quickly arriving! During these final couple days, please be sure to review packing lists and procedures to ensure everything goes smoothly. Also double check luggage for size and weight restrictions. Any additional charges for over-weight/over-sized bags are the responsibility of the individual traveler. Final bus lists and chaperone groups were posted today for students to see. 

Many will be happy to know the current weather in Rome is 45-50 degrees and partly cloudy. We should have decent weather while we are there as well.

Happy holidays to all of our band families and safe travels. See on the 27th!


Mr. Stone and Mr. Bell