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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 5 years ago

Ocoee students perform for Obama

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The Ocoee High marching band not only played for President Barack Obama last week, but also it received a personal shout-out from him.
by: Danielle Hendrix Former Associate Editor

ORLANDO  Not many high-school marching band members can say they played for the president of the United States.

After President Barack Obama’s visit to the University of Central Florida on Friday, Oct. 28, though, the Ocoee High marching band can.

Band Director Bernie Hendricks got an email Tuesday, Oct. 25, from one of the event organizers inviting his band to play when Obama went to the CFE Arena to campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton. After talking to the principal and getting it approved, Hendricks told the kids that Thursday. The excitement was contagious. 

“It’s funny because I really couldn’t tell them until we got confirmation,” Hendricks said. “I got the email Tuesday, got confirmation Wednesday morning, so I didn’t really tell the kids until Thursday and they were like, ‘Ahhhh!’ It was really neat.”

The highlight of the evening came when the band got a personalized shout-out from Obama himself. The band was in a dead spot in the arena, and it was hard to hear the president when he wasn’t facing them. At first, band members didn’t know he was talking to them.

“Everyone who was sitting directly behind him, even the people in front of us, couldn’t hear,” Hendricks said. “You could hear very faintly, so when he started talking to us the kids were like, ‘I think he’s talking to us,’ and then somebody on the side was like, ‘Hey, he’s talking to you all!’”

Turning around to acknowledge the band, Obama asked what high school they were from, eliciting a chorus of “Ocoee!” from band members.

“There you go: Oh-co-wee!” Obama then announced to the audience.

Senior drum major Wanya Mitchell said his pronunciation of the school’s name is still the joke of the day among band members, but it was also the highlight of the day.

“That’s still the joke of the day, putting the emphasis on the E’s,” Mitchell said. “It’s just the fact that he took the time out of his speech to recognize a bunch of high-schoolers. It really showed how caring he was, especially the fact that he went on to say, ‘I just love marching bands.’ To hear him say, ‘I’m proud of you guys,’ I think that was the icing on the cake.”

“It was cool, just the fact that the president gave us a shout-out, that’s enough,” Hendricks said. “(The kids) were giddy and absolutely fabulous, being in place and playing what they were supposed to play, getting in and out, they were absolutely phenomenal.”

In the days following, Mitchell still finds it hard to wrap his head around the fact that he got to play for Obama during his most recent Florida campaign.

“Right now, it still feels very unreal; it’s like it’s a dream,” he said. “Not many high-schoolers can say, ‘I played for the president of the United States.’”

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