A year of hard work and dedication earned Proviso East jazz band members an invitation to Disney’s “Magic Music Days” in Orlando, Fla. Adding new meaning to work and play, the band showcased its talent in a professional and lively setting.

For nearly three months, the jazz band, directed by Reginald Wright, Sr., prepared for the weeklong competition, which began March 26. In addition to their traditional daily practice sessions, the band played for community and school events, and entered other local competitions. Recently, the jazz band placed first at an Eastern Illinois University competition.

During its trip, the band performed at Universal Studios. The rest of the week was devoted to Mickey Mouse and amusement park rides.

“We’ve got to have a little fun too,” Wright said. “[The band] has been working hard all year long. This is a reward for their hard work.”

With a master’s degree in music education, Wright came to Proviso East High School in Maywood in 1993. He is now the director of the jazz, marching, and concert bands, and offers a beginners class in band.

His jazz band is comprised of 18 members, the majority of which are in grades 10 through 12. Several of them participate in Wright’s other bands. Marcus McLaurin, for example, who is a jazz band member and junior at Proviso East, also plays in the marching and concert bands, and is part of the brass ensemble. He plays the trumpet and flugelhorn, a brass instrument resembling the trumpet.

“I like marching band the best,” McLaurin said. “It’s great looking out at the kids’ faces, and how excited they are to see us perform.”

McLaurin, who participated in the Disney tour, aspires to be a band director.

The competition featured instrumental, vocal, and dance ensembles. To be considered, bands had to send in a performance tape or DVD. All participants received a special T-shirt, but most bands compete for ratings.

Forest Park resident Diane Burdett, who is a senior at Proviso East, plays in the marching and concert bands. Like McLaurin, she enjoys the marching band most. Burdett plays the flute and piccolo.

“The crowd’s energy really gets you going,” Burdett said. “There’s a lot of energy with the marching band.”

Being a director has its rewards, Wright said, the most satisfying of which is watching his students mature. Many of them receive scholarships and go on to college. Wright also works with his students for three to four years, resulting in a “bond that lasts forever,” he said.

“After they graduate, Proviso East alum still come back to check up on the new bands,” Wright said.