Ember Evans has been overseas once in her life.
Well, kind of overseas.
She has been to Jamaica, which means taking a flight over water, but the island nation is only about 500 miles from Miami, about the same distance as from Chattanooga to New Orleans.
Evans’ overseas adventures are about to expand by about 4,000 miles.
She is one of 92 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Marching Mocs members who will perform in the London New Year’s Day Parade in England. Along with the other 91 Marching Mocs going to London, she received terrific news on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Instead of each student having to pay $3,775 for the trip, they only have to pay $2,500.
“It means a lot,” said Evans, a junior in music education and the only female tuba player in the band. “I was really worried about the last payment because I was having to pay it out of my pocket. It saves me a lot of stress and something that I really don’t have to worry about, and it makes me extremely grateful.”
The Division of Advancement helped raise the $120,000 for the London trip, making it possible for the students—musicians, color guard, drum majors and majorettes—as well as some faculty members and administrative staff to spend a week in London.
Money-raising for the trip started in 2022. This August, a crowdfunding campaign through GoFundMocs began, as well as a solicitation letter and e-mail sent to former UTC band members, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Alumni Affairs Jeff Cogburn said. Several gifts of more than $10,000 were raised.
On Mocs Give Day 2023, with support from the University of Chattanooga Foundation, another $37,598 was raised from 159 donors, Cogburn said.
Students who already have paid more than $2,500 will get a refund, Randall Coleman, director of the Marching Mocs, told the band members in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall announcement.
The news hadn’t been revealed to the students until Coleman told them, and their enormous cheer reverberated around the hall.
“We’ve worked really hard over this year and my goal was to be able to tell you: Don’t worry about the last payment. It’s taken care of,” Coleman told the students. “So I’m happy today to tell you: Don’t worry about the last payment. It is taken care of.”
Relieving students’ financial worries about the trip is a big weight off everyone’s shoulders, Coleman later said.
“So many of our students haven’t even been on an airplane before, and we can help them do this trip,” he said. “Having that help of not having to worry about that last $1,275 is a great deal.”
Vice Chancellor of Advancement Kim White, who graduated from UTC in 1982, told Marching Mocs members that “you make us so proud on the field and off the field and we hope that this experience is life-changing.”
“It is wonderful in our position to be able to raise up great programs that are going on at the University,” she said. “As an alum, I’m doubly proud to say that our band continues to be such an excellent representative of what students can achieve.”
Preston Johnson, a junior in instrumental music education and a sousaphone player in the Marching Mocs, was practically bouncing on his toes after being told about the new, lower cost for the London trip.
“For the longest time, I wasn’t sure if I would’ve been able to go or not. I made it,” he said.
As far as being in a huge parade seen by millions, Johnson said he has no worries about nerves.
“I’m more excited than I am nervous,” he said. “There’ll be a huge smile on my face.”
But can you play sousaphone and smile at the same time?
“Oh, sure you can. It builds character,” he said, a huge smile on his face already.