Home sweet home!

After a few delays, we are back in the great city of San Antonio! It's true what they say... There's no place like home! 

As we all make way our ways back to our respective homes, we take with us many great things from this trip. Each of us now hold a special place in our hearts for those involved in the events of D-Day and will hold that respect for the rest of our lives. Whether we realize it yet or not, we have all been changed by this memorable week. We take away the sights, the sounds, and the great stories told over these past few days. 

To Carola, our wonderful tour guide! Although you may never see this blog , we wish to publicly thank you for the enthusiasm and love you shared with our group! You were such a joy to be with and we will sincerely miss your energy and smiling face! Kiki! 

To our President, Dr. Ricardo Romo, we wish to thank you for your ongoing support of UTSA Music and the UTSA Spirit of San Antonio. For without your enthusiastic support and vision for a top tier university, none of this would have been made possible. You are loved here in the SOSA family! Don't worry, we will share pictures with you from this wonderful experience! From our hearts to yours...thank you, and Go Runners! 

To the Chairman and all supporting staff. Thank you, thank you , thank you! Thank you for being the logistical gods and goddesses and being the driving force behind insuring this tremendous opportunity for SOSA. David Frego, Naomy Ybarra, Carol Rustowicz, Stephen Hill, Victor Mendiola, and Cindy Solis... We owe you all! You have been nothing short of amazing for not only SOSA but for UTSA Music. Your day to day work does not go unnoticed. 

And once more , to our family and friends who have supported us throughout our entire musical careers, we owe you the most. You have been there when we wanted to put the instruments down and quit and have also been their for some of our greatest accomplishments! So thank you! Thank you for becoming a band groupie/nerd along with us all and sharing this wonderful journey with us!! 

God bless you all, and God bless Texas! 

Feels great to be home! 

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Bon Voyage Paris! Merci!

It's been an incredibly eventful last two days spent here in the beautiful city of Paris! 

We started Sunday off right, with a morning visit to Ciel De Paris, a 56 story commercial building with an observation deck on top. Many celebrated the morning welcome with a fine glass of champagne and a toast to a safe trip home. The views were gorgeous and the city was so immaculate! 

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After the visit to Ciel de Paris and a quick lunch we loaded the charters and  took a second to walk through and enjoy the beauties of the famous Luxembourg  Gardens. We were introduced to a keen humored older woman who would serve as our city tour guide upon our return back into the charters! We hit almost every big landmark in the city , including the Louvre, Paris Academy of Music, Eiffel Tower , and Arch de Triumph to name a few! Next to the Arc de Triumph ( the last stop on our tour ) were many shops in which we spent a few hours shopping, picking up some great Paris souvenirs. 

Luxembourg Gardens 

Luxembourg Gardens 

Dinner was nothing short of amazing!! We packed a little corner cafe that graciously opened their doors to the whole band aa we all enjoyed a French classic, Beef Bolognese! A meal very much similar to an American styled pot roast. 

Once back at the hotel, members spent the night out on the town. Whether it was looking for a great bar, touring the landmarks, or even staying up until about 5 in the morning to watch the Spurs play!! 

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Which brings us to today! Our last day in Paris! 

The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa

There's definitely a little slower motion in the band for the days are full of constant movement and activity. Many members are starting to get that "zombie" look... Haha so sleeping on the plane shouldn't pose as a problem for many! But for the morning , we started our day with a visit to the Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa! Talk about an amazing piece of architecture... The Louvre Museum is just phenomenal in it's stature and decorative affair. During the visit to the Louvre , students had the opportunity to travel across street to the Love Lock Bridge. For those who don't know , the love lock bridge is a bridge dedicated to couples who take locks and lock them onto the railings of the bridge symbolizing security in their love for one another. It's a beautiful sight , for the thousands of locks from a distance make the bridge appear as if it has the elegant gold facing to it! 

Love lock bridge 

Love lock bridge 

After five hours spent at the Louvre, we headed to the famous Notre Dame. From there we spent a quick hour shopping for last minute gifts and formally closed the night out with one last dinner together in Paris! 

To put this whole experience into words is practically impossible. We hope that through our updates you were able to enjoy the experience along with us and get a slight view of what France is like. Pictures can never do this place justice. Everyone should strive to witness all this beauty in person. This place... It's nearly magical, for it seems almost unreal. So tonight, for one last time  we head back to our hotel, pack up and enjoy this beautiful rainy night that Paris has offered us with! 

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All we can say now is Bon Voyage Paris and Howdy Texas!! 

There's no place like home, and there's sure as heck ain't no place like Texas!! YEE-HAW! 

On to Paris!

What a perfect way to wrap up our stay in Normandy! After another early start SOSA was packed up and ready to make it's way towards Paris. The hotel staff of La Closerie were nothing short of fantastic.... such friendly , accommodating, and supportive folks. Members of the Hotel staff really took an interest in SOSA, and we owe them for letting us rehearse in their front parking lot!! 

Presidential wreath, acknowledging both US and French Republic officials 

Presidential wreath, acknowledging both US and French Republic officials 

At around 7:00am we loaded charters and began yet another 2 hour bus ride. This time it was to The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, where President Barack Obama spent his time yesterday as he payed tribute and offered his memorial speech to all of the world. 

Ceremonial wreaths laid in the center of the gorgeous memorial shrine

Ceremonial wreaths laid in the center of the gorgeous memorial shrine

There,  we performed a few musical selections for those gathered to pay tribute . After the performance, we had time to relax and enjoy the beauty of this breath taking cemetery. If you have not seen pictures of the cemetery , google it now! It's a beaut! The cemetery lies right off the shore tucked on top of a cliff side in which overlooks the stunning waters of the ocean. Something almost indescribable , even through pictures. With over 9,000 headstones lining these finely manicured lawns , the cemetery became a sight that was practically  impossible to turn away from. 

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It was then time to load up once more and transport to Arromanches! 

Here in Arromanches members were treated to a 360 film in which highlighted the major events of D-Day and exposed unseen footage of this historical event. Talk about powerful... This film touched the hearts of many. Arromanches also offered many festivities , great street food, and stunning views of the ocean. 

Beautiful ocean views from the hills of Arromanches 

Beautiful ocean views from the hills of Arromanches 

We left the city of Arromanches a little later than expected. After heavy traffic we were finally Paris bound! It's 12:30am and we have just arrived to our final hotel for the trip. Tomorrow is a bit of a treat! We get to sleep in!!! Something much needed, for these 5:00 & 6:00 am mornings are beginning to become a little taxing to the body! 

A beautiful message to the world . 

A beautiful message to the world . 

 Bonjour!!, and welcome to our Paris experience! Many exciting things planned for this beautiful Sunday! 

Be back tonight with more pics!! 

#SOSAinvadesparis

D Day. In memorium.

D Day. What a day today was. Going up to Veterans and hearing their stories from the war. Playing on French national television. Playing the National Hymn for France while the people of France sang along. The giant aircrafts flying so close overhead that you feel the rumbling of your chest. Marching through the streets of Sainte Mere Eglise while people of all nationalities cheered us on. 

It was all completely overwhelming. The sense of world peace brought tears to people's eyes multiple times. 

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But it was all sort of a mystery at first to everyone in the band it seemed. We all knew the history of what today meant to the wonderful people of France and were looking forward to performing for the many folks from all different nationalities. However, we  had no idea the emotional toll it would have taken on each of us as Americans who grew up in much different and in some ways, simpler times . Today was a day that every human being should experience. The joining of two allies, celebrating a beautifully tragic, historical event. 

Guest from all over the world join together for dinner in Sainte Mere Eglise

Guest from all over the world join together for dinner in Sainte Mere Eglise

In a world where there seems to be much chaos, we found ourselves today to be tranquilized of that effect. Many smiles, hugs, salutes, and new friendships were exchanged today in Sainte Mere Eglise. 

We've said it before and we will never be able to say it enough, but we are incredibly thankful for this momentous experience and thank each and everyone of you, especially who are at home, following our blogs, Facebook , Twitter, etc! For without your ongoing support, none of this would have been possible. 

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We say "Bon Voyage" to Honfluer. After a memorial performance at Omaha Beach tomorrow morning we will depart for a 3 hour ride to Paris, our home for the rest of our stay! 

Expect lots of pictures and lots of thoughts over the next couple of days!! 

A Memorial Day

Wake up calls were given at 4:30 this morning for members in the band! As we made our way downstairs, we were graciously hosted by hotel staff. Breakfast consisted of many delicious items! Yogurts, fresh fruit, croissants, and select meats and cheeses (just to name a few ). However, while today was an early start, I think that every member in the ensemble can agree that it was well worth it. 

We departed the hotel in Honfluer at 5:45. From there we traveled three hours to an American Cemetery and Memorial in Brittany...The sight was absolutely breath taking!! Tucked into the hillside, this beautifully green cemetery was perfectly landscaped and plotted to the highest of standards, as it should be for these brave individuals.  

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As we unloaded the charters and got into our uniforms for the first time on this trip, everything started to finally fall into reality. We were finally HERE...in the moment...as we stood there basking in the glory and undying history these 4,408 members set before us. Between the breath-taking sights, the wonderful musical performances, and the words of a few remaining veterans, emotions were running high for the Spirit of San Antonio. But it was a great sense of pride we with held as we proudly performed both the French and American National Anthems.

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As we finished paying our last respects, we loaded up the charters and headed out to the historical Mont Sainte Michel. ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! And the crepes at the local cafes were to die for! With full stomachs and enrichened minds we left Sainte Michel at roughly 5:00pm.

Two hours later we found ourselves back in the comforts of Honfluer. Carol, our wonderful travel guide arranged for a delicious seafood dinner, which awaited our arrival. With yet again another round of satisfied stomachs we begin winding down from what has become a truly memorable and inspiring day. Members empty out the streets of Honfluer and make their way back to the hotel. Some have opted to enjoy a nights swim in the beautiful heated pool here at the hotel. It's 11:00 pm and the sun has just about finished setting. 

Tomorrow's another huge day for SOSA! More to come! 

Good night, and GO SPURS GO! 

Touch down in Paris!

Excitement. Nerves. Overwhelmed. So many emotions come to mind when describing what Day 1 had in store for SOSA today. We were met at the San Antonio International Airport by a few of the local news stations. A few of our students were asked to speak in interviews about how they felt being so close to embarking on such an amazing journey. 

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OAfter checking in and going through security, it was off to Dallas on flight number 1. Flight number 2 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Paris de Gaulle was a long one. The duration of the flight lasted approximately 10 hours.

After a safe landing into the beautiful city of Paris, we were met by a little bit of rain, cool weather, and our tour guide, Carol, a local woman full of pep and enthusiasm about the country. We then set off to our hotel in Honfleur. Honfleur is a beautiful, seaside city tucked away in the hills of France.

Current Hotel In Honfluer

Current Hotel In Honfluer

A brief rehearsal in the parking lot of the hotel, dinner and exploring in Honfleur concluded SOSA’s evening for Day 1/Day 2. It’s currently 10:30 pm and the sun is still in the process of setting. For now, we head to bed! All members are to be up at 5:00am to start off tomorrows festivities! 

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Bon voyage for now!

One step at a time

Preparations are underway for the Spirit of San Antonio as they prepare for their France departure! 


Last night SOSA held their first meeting and rehearsal to brief on the trip and work through the first round of notes... It was an amazing feeling to be sitting there in rehearsal , working on the same music that has been in the hands of some of Americas finest musicians, the Presidents Own!! 

The French Republic Nation Anthem - COOL STUFF! 

The French Republic Nation Anthem - COOL STUFF! 


Cool right?! ... Well, we think so!! 

But today's focus is music! We have tons of music to get under our fingers and not only do we have to learn it, but we have to make it sound GREAT! I mean ... Come on! It has to be United States great and nothing less! 

For now , we take a moment to rest our lips, and enjoy some delicious Grimaldi's pizza for lunch, courtesy of our gracious department faculty!! 

Lunch time at Grimaldi's Pizzeria - LaCantera Shopping Center

Lunch time at Grimaldi's Pizzeria - LaCantera Shopping Center


After lunch, it's time to get back at it! Rehearsal will start up again at 3:00 outside and run until 9:00 this afternoon! We will focus on fine tuning music and possibly some marching! We are decked out in SOSA gear as we anticipate the arrival of local newscast and media at this afternoons rehearsal!

Side-note:

We want to thank KSAT News San Antonio for their awesome coverage on this story!! 

 Esmi Valdez, interviews with local news station - KSAT 

 Esmi Valdez, interviews with local news station - KSAT 

The excitement continues to build as we continue counting down the days! For now, it's time to rest!!! Tomorrow's rehearsal will feature another 11 hour intensive day of music, marching, and media! We can not even begin to express how grateful we are for all the tremendous support we have received! Thank you for helping put this great University and organization on the maps!!! 

GO RUNNERS ! 

T-Minus 3 days! 

Let the countdown begin!

The Spirit of San Antonio will begin preparing for it's departure to Normandy starting tomorrow!!


Tomorrows rehearsal will run from 6:00pm - 9:00pm on the 1604 Main Campus. We will also rehearse Friday and Saturday from 10:00am - 9:00pm... That's right! 11 hour days!!! as well as on Sunday from 4-7 pm. We will not only focus on music, but also focus on creating the perfect image representative of the United States!  Rehearsals will focus on preparing music representative of both the United States and France. There's no doubt that members of this community withhold the pride and patriotism needed for such a task! 

SOSA Honoring US Veterans at home football game

SOSA Honoring US Veterans at home football game

Faculty and supporting staff have been putting in tremendous work in preparing for the marching bands departure while marching band members rush to finalize all their traveling needs!  We are incredibly thankful for the ongoing support of University President - Ricardo Romo, UTSA Music Chair - David Frego, and all supporting UTSA officials. To have this kind of support is spectacular and we could not have had this opportunity if it wasn't for these amazing individuals! 

We have also been fortunate enough to have our story picked up by multiple media sources including local news cast, Texas Public Radio, and World News Feed! We're excited for what this means for the future of SOSA! 

Todays Media Coverage:

WOAI - 

World News Feed - 

Time Warner Cable News Austin - 

Stay tuned! More to come about our pre-departure preparations, and MUCH more to come once we're on our way!! 

LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN!!!!!! 

 

SOSA to represent U.S. in France

(May 22, 2014) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio Spirit of San Antonio (SOSA) marching band has been selected as the official university band to represent the United States and perform at the 70th anniversary World War II D-Day Memorial Parade and Musical Salute to the Veterans in Normandy, France, June 6.

The commemorative event marks the anniversary of D-Day, a day forever known for the Allied invasion of Germany-occupied France and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

At the height of World War II, the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise was recaptured by American airborne and land troops, making it the first Normandy village to be liberated from Nazi tyranny. Seventy D-Day survivors are expected to return to the French town to attend the historic remembrance.

UTSA SOSA Marching Band Director Ron Ellis will lead the San Antonio contingent of 44 band members and 15 parents traveling overseas for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Ellis says the band members raised the trip funding over the last six months, and the parents are covering their own expenses. The trip also has extra significance for Ellis and the band members because several had relatives at Normandy during the war.

"This is a huge honor that says a lot about UTSA and the perception of not only what the university is now, but what it is becoming," said Ellis. "It's a tribute to the great leadership of the city, the university and to our top-tier reputation that we were called to participate to represent the U.S.A. at such an historic event."

According to Ellis, the marching band will perform before French national leaders, visiting military leaders, high-ranking officials and French President Francois Hollande. President Barack Obama also is expected to attend.

The SOSA ceremonial group begins rehearsals next week on musical selections for the ceremonies and parades including the U.S. and French National anthems, "The Longest Day March," "Amazing Grace" and music for several feature performances that will include "Texas, Our Texas," "Appalachian Spring" and "Strike Up the Band," among others. The UTSA marching band also has been asked to be prepared to perform "Hail to the Chief."

In addition to the musical performances, SOSA marching band members will have the opportunity to visit several other landmarks over the week in France including Omaha Beach, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.