HARRISONBURG, VA - Lizzy Willis of Sparta is a member of the Marching Royal Dukes of James Madison University that marched in the 2014-15 New Year's Day Parade in Rome. This performance concluded with a performance at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican following the Pope's New Year's Blessing.
Willis, a freshman majoring in Health Sciences, plays in the marching band's Mellophone section.
The JMU band was the only college band in this year's parade. Band members performed the theme from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in the parade and music from their season for the St. Peter's Square performance.
A total of 227 members of the marching band, accompanied by the band staff, band alumni and family and friends, made the trip at the invitation of the festival staff organizing the New Year's Day event. While in Italy, the group also visited Tuscany, Siena and Florence, where JMU has a study abroad program.
"We are proud to be one of the largest and most visible student organizations on campus, and take seriously our responsibility to represent JMU both nationally and internationally," said Scott Rikkers, director of the Marching Royal Dukes and assistant director of bands at JMU. "Performances and trips such as this one allow our students, staff, alumni and band families the opportunity to experience different cultures and share our music with different audiences."
The Marching Royal Dukes date to 1972 when JMU established a football program. Membership in the marching band is open to all JMU students, regardless of their academic major. The 2014 band's 465 members represent 47 academic majors. More than 380 Marching Royal Dukes are non-music majors.