By: Peyton Gelinger/Sophomore Writer and Sarah Marble/Content Editor
The 2019 Blue Ridge High School band and chorus trip to Universal Florida became national news when the band’s instruments were stolen.
As in the past, the band director Vince LoRusso arranged separate transportation for the band’s instruments. Band parents Amy and Jason Auckland volunteered to drive the load using their own truck and trailer.
The trip, which began on Tuesday, April 9 and ended on Saturday, April 13, was smooth sailing until that Thursday morning when students and chaperones realized the truck, along with the trailer containing the instruments, was gone.
Tori Auckland explained that she found out about the incident from her mother who contacted her to say that she and Auckland’s father would not be at the theme park that day.
Auckland said the turn of events “was surprising and a little sad a first, but bad things happen. It is better not to dwell on them and just to keep moving on.”
Before the truck and trailer were stolen, both were locked and parked outside the Best Western Universal Inn, directly across the street from the doors and gates that lead into Universal Studios Florida Theme Park.
It was when the students and chaperones returned to the hotel Thursday morning to grab some extra sunscreen that they realized that the truck and trailer were nowhere in sight.
LoRusso contacted the Orange County Police Department.
“I hoped that the truck was towed, however that was not the case. The property was in fact stolen, even though the truck and trailer were left locked, and the Aucklands still had their keys,” says LoRusso.
Most students were shocked.
Junior Madison Swisher plays the trumpet, and says her first reaction to finding out the instruments were stolen was disbelief.
“When I was first told, we were at the water park so I couldn’t really go asking around because I was one of the first students to find out through friends. At first I thought it was a joke because some of the kids just didn’t know when a joke is too far. When I started asking people I knew I could trust they said it was true. You never think it can happen to us, you never think it can happen to you, until that moment comes. At the end of the day, Mr. LoRusso brought it up and everyone’s face went blank because that’s when we knew it was 100% true.”
Sophomore Brandon Gentile plays the baritone saxophone. Although shocked by the theft, Gentile says the band still had a good trip.
“We made the best out of our situation and still had fun. Now, and we will continue to work hard in the band with the help of the instruments lent to us by a local instrument rental business, and the tragedy will not affect our drive so succeed in the future.”
Freshman, Jake Birtch plays percussion. Birtch explained that it was unreal to him, at first. He says initially when he found out about the missing instruments he assumed the truck and it’s trailer were just towed, that they would get the truck back later that day.
“I was excited for an extra day at the theme park,” says Birtch, “until I had found out that this was not the case and the instruments were in fact stolen. It was very upsetting when we found out they were really stolen.”
Drum Major and Junior KayLeen Conklin plays the flute. She stated, “it was hard to think about how much of an impact this unfortunate event would have on many individuals and our band program as a whole. This event was definitely a bump in the road to many of the young musicians from our school, but it is not going to stop us from continuing to grow. It will not stop us from doing what we love, because we are extremely lucky to have Mr. LoRusso as our band director. I can confidently say that the future of bands at Blue Ridge is still a bright one.”
Despite what occurred during the 2019 Florida band trip, Blue Ridge students have remained optimistic and are thankful to have LoRusso as their band director.
LoRusso says, “All band performances and events will stay on schedule for the rest of the year, so be sure to come out and support our Blue Ridge Band!”