Fourth and fifth graders in the Marching Lions continue receiving accolades while performing at its second professional football game.
For the second year in a row, the Maple Elementary marching band from Cambridge, Maryland, performed at a professional football game. Last year, the group played at a Baltimore Ravens game, and this year it went to the New York Jets.
Comprised of approximately 70 fourth and fifth graders and founded in 2016, the Marching Lions performed “Jingle Bell Rock” and a drumline cadence during pregame at the Jets game on Dec. 23.
Band Director Ray Washington Jr. says the performance was “a dream come true.”
Originally Washington wasn’t sure if the performance would be possible. He had calculated that the trip would cost about $10,000 for transportation and food, among other items.
Washington told his principal, Jerome Stover, that he would not pursue the opportunity. Stover would not hear of such a thought and encouraged Washington to fundraise.
“It’s my passion to really bring up the underdogs,” Stover says. “When Mr. Washington came in and said, ‘I think I want to go to the Jets … [but] I don’t think I’ll be able to do it,’ I said, ‘No, we are going to do it.’”
After a month-and-a-half of fundraising and receiving generous donations, the group had enough funds to attend. “The love of the community and their love of the band, it really contributed to us being able to go,” Washington says.
A Cambridge native and Maple Elementary alum himself, Washington says it’s his goal to take the Marching Lions to professional games, so that students can have experiences outside of their small town.
“Taking them to these professional games early, it shows them what is possible,” Washington says. “Like, ‘I made it to a professional football field. I can be an NFL football player or live in New York.’ Anything is possible because they’ve been there. That’s the best experience.”