PALMER — The Colony High School band recently returned from their trip of a lifetime through Normandy, France, to perform in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“The support from all the other schools, the other music staff and the chaperones that we had was incredible,” CHS band director Jamin Burton said.

Now that they’re back, it’s time for practice. The annual, before school “band camp” started July 29. Students have been putting in nine-hour days to prepare for the coming school year.

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Weston Moser is entering his senior year at CHS. He went on the historic trip to Normandy and came back with a fresh gust of inspiration.

“It was quite an experience, quite an opportunity,” Moser said.

Moser said that it was not only a once in a lifetime chance to perform abroad for the D-Day Anniversary, but a chance to learn about World War II up close and personal.

“It really put into perspective how many lives were lost,” Moser said.

This is Moser’s last year at CHS. He’s played with the band since he was a freshman. He said that he wants to do whatever he can to help boost the school music program with his remaining time there, a “bittersweet” revelation.

He said the trip helped boost his morale for the coming year.

“It really motivated me to keep influencing, adding as much as I can to help this band reach their potential,” Moser said.

Kate Stegall is entering her freshman year at CHS. She didn’t go to Europe with the band but the significance of the trip was not lost on her. She said there’s a lot to gain from joining this band.

“I like how much they do for the band,” Stegall said.

Stegall has already acclimated to her new band family. She’s made a lot of new friends and found a steady supply of help whenever she needs it.

“They’re all so nice and supportive here,” Stegall said.

Stegall said that she enjoys Burton’s teaching style, finding him to be the ideal balance between fun and disciplined. She said they have plenty of chances to joke and laugh with each other but when it’s time to roll up the sleeves, he gets right to it.

“He does so much for all of us… He really works hard for us,” Stegall said.

Burton said the trip was exhausting but it was also “incredible” and certainly worth all the effort. The band played five different performances. That included memorial performances for U.S. veterans at historic cemeteries and a lively performance during a town square parade in the middle of Sainte-Mère-Eglise, the first town liberated by the U.S. and Allies.

“I think that it was a nice mix between somber moments and commemorative moments and celebratory moments definitely made the trip something they will remember forever,” Burton said.

Burton said that several people who lost family members during WWII requested to leave cards or flowers at their relatives’ tombstones while they were in Normandy. Some students helped locate the various graves so they could take pictures to send back to the requesting families.

“The kids took that super serious,” Burton said.

Burton said that he lost a lot of his band leaders after graduation and was initially a little worried. He said that his concerns quickly subsided after seeing so many new members and so many band members readily taking on roles left behind.

He said there’s about 30-31 new members out of 82 total in the band. He found that encouraging.

“Lots of new faces... Lots of kids stepping up, working hard,” Burton said.

On Friday, Burton made his way back to his office in the band room after a long day of practice. As he neared his office, several students banged away at their drums in the sound enclosed music rooms, despite the fact practice was over.

“They just keep going...They want to be good at what they do,” Burton said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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