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Illinois State’s esteemed marching band, the Big Red Marching Machine (BRMM), travelled to several cities in Ireland over spring break, earning two awards during its time abroad.

The BRMM departed O’Hare airport on March 14 to begin their weeklong adventure throughout Ireland. Transporting around 200 people and their instruments was no easy task.

“Once we were in the air I could finally take a breath,” said BRMM Director Gavin Smith.

“It was a surreal experience.” —Mike Roberts

Upon arriving to Dublin, the BRMM enjoyed free time to explore the city. Students had the opportunity to visit Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and take a tour of the Guinness Storehouse.

The next morning the band prepared for the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. With more than 500,000 spectators, it was the largest parade the band has ever marched in.

BRMM was a big hit, winning Best Overall Band honors.

“It was a surreal experience,” said BRMM trumpet player Mike Roberts, a junior Music Education major. “Having so many people stick it out through the rain to watch us perform was an amazing time. The people in Ireland are so nice and so spirited, they loved hearing all of the bands perform.”

The BRMM then visited the city of Galway and discovered more of Ireland’s rich history before preparing for the Limerick International Marching Band Competition. There the BRMM won Best Overall Band for the second time that week.

“We didn’t have to focus on winning. We just had fun.”  —Gavin Smith

“We work very hard in this program and to be able to win two international awards is so amazing,” said BRMM Drum Major Sarah Rasmussen, a junior double majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology and Music. “We were able to show the world who we are and what we do.”

The BRMM’s last day in Ireland was spent exploring Bunratty Folk Park and the Cliffs of Moher.

“I have never seen any other place like the Cliffs of Moher. I cannot wait to go back,” said BRMM piccollo player Frankie Kestel, a junior double majoring in Animal Science and Agronomy Management.

A crowd of supporters gathered outside the Bone Student Center to welcome home the band. They may have won two distinguished awards, but the most valuable thing the BRMM brought home were their memories of the time they spent abroad.

“We didn’t prepare to win, so this validated the work that we do,” Smith said. “We didn’t have to focus on winning. We just had fun.”

Logan Sellers can be reached at