St. Helena Band prepares for trip to France

GREENSBURG – The St. Helena College & Career Academy Marching Band has performed at many well-known events nationwide.

Now, the band is preparing to take its talents across the Atlantic Ocean.

The St. Helena Marching Band was invited to perform in the 80th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Liberation of Europe parade in June 2024.

“They saw a man on Tik Tok, and they were like, ‘hey, we have to get this band to France,'” said St. Helena Director of Bands Chesteron Frye. “They reached out to me, and I started hitting the ground running, spreading the news that we’re trying to go to France.”

Frye who is in his sixth year leading the band program, said the band aims to raise $135,000 to get to France. The band is well-known for performing at various Mardi Gras parades, college homecomings, and other concerts. Frye said they’ve also done work with Tyler Perry, the Steve Harvey Show, and Good Morning America, among others.

“We’ve been on a host of media outlets because we had a viral five-year-old drummer who received a full scholarship to Alcorn State,” Frye said.

The band is hoping to raise $50K through a GoFundme.

The drummer Fyre referred to is Jeremiah Travis, now heading to the fourth grade. Travis began playing the drums at two years old.

Travis has performed on the Steve Harvey Show and various other places.

Frye, a Grammy-nominated musical educator of the year finalist, said St. Helena is the state’s only K-12 band.

“You have to show compassion to all the kids,” he said. “Every kid is different. We have to work with every kid differently. Everyone has different playing abilities. You have to cater to everybody’s needs, and that’s my main thing. No matter how long it takes me, I’m gonna cater to everyone’s needs. The one common goal is to have a great band program.

“A lot of our students are going through a lot of things because this is a very rural area,” he added. “And with this band, it provides an outlet, saying I can go to college for free, I get to travel nationally and internationally. It’s just a different thing that music brings to students.”

A third through sixth-grade band program takes classes during the school day and a seventh-12th grade program does the same. Each program is broken down into beginners, intermediate and advanced classes.

“We bring everybody in at the end of the day,” Frye said. “We practice year-round. Monday-Thursday every single day. We practice all summer.”

Jeremiah Travis

Frye explained that his relationship with Kendrick Taylor, the director of bands at Southern University, and others within Southern’s band program had benefited his students.

“Our kids are under the leadership of Southern University with the Louisiana leadership institution,” Frye said. “They get taught by college band directors, and they get to see Southern University band, and they can see ‘we can go to this college, and we can go for free. We can help get kids scholarships to Southern, and it is just a beautiful thing.”

The band will be in France for eight days and seven nights. They’ll have a chance to visit the Eiffel Tower and different museums, as well as enjoy time at the beach.

“It’s just a lot of eye-opening things,” Frye said. “Some things that these kids probably never would have experienced unless we got this opportunity. It’s life-changing, and it’s amazing for our band program and for our community.

“Our superintendent (Dr. Kelli Joseph) plays a major role into the band program with funding us and giving us the ability to have band classes,” he added. “We’re probably one of the only schools that have band classes K through 12.”

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