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April 23, 2009

ULM Band Director scores a hit with Sound of Today’s Ireland trip

Sound of Today band members have fully recovered after a whirlwind trip to perform in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade last month.

Associate Professor Derle Long, director of bands at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, secured the trip in 2008 through contacts he made during a similar excursion to the Emerald Isle nearly two decades ago before coming to ULM.

“I traveled with my high school band when I was teaching in Dallas,” he said. “I kept my contacts up over the years with the people who helped put that trip together and some others I met when I was over there.”

One of those contacts was an Irishman working for the Irish Tourist Board back in the early 1990s who started a travel company of his own called Atlantic Group Tours, based in the U.S., according to Long.

“He really knows what he is doing,” said Long, who tried two other times prior to this one to schedule a trip to Dublin.

“The first time I planned it, 9-11 put an end to the trip,” he said. “The second time the U.S. went to war in the Middle East.”

But the third time was a charm. Though the economy was taking a nosedive and price of fuel skyrocketed last summer, Long said 45 “hardy souls” banded together who would not give up on the long-deferred dream of a trip to Ireland.

The patience and effort appeared to be worth it, from the moment of arrival.

“It was a wonderful trip!” said Long. “The weather in Ireland can be as unpredictable as Louisiana weather, but we were blessed with sunshine every day and very moderate temperatures for this time of year.”

The excellent weather brought out an estimated 675,000 people for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, who packed the one and half mile stretch of the parade route.

“It was great to see that many happy, smiling faces enjoying the parade,” said Long.

But the highlights didn’t stop at the end of the parade route. The group spent three days in Dublin, visiting Trinity College, St. Michan’s Church, and shopping on Grafton Street downtown.

The students were also able to spend two luxurious days in Galway on the West coast and one day touring the Connemara region, with some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.

“Our last night was spent in London,” said Long. “Even though it was nighttime, everyone who made it downtown had the opportunity to see some of the major landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.”

Long and his crew were exhausted after arriving back in Monroe, but their memories linger.

“We are still sifting through photos and videos and telling stories to anyone who will listen,” said Long.

In fact, the only negative thing that happened, according to Long, is the airlines misplaced a box of band uniforms. The box was found and made it back to the ULM Band Building before Easter Break.

To the best of his knowledge, the Ireland trip was a first for ULM, though the Jazz Ensemble at then-Northeast Louisiana University travelled to Europe for the USO back in the early 1960’s. That trip did not include Ireland.

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