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The Crusaders march on Beijing

By Patricia Montemurri

Detroit Free Press

She’s taken middle school musicians to Ghana to serenade tribal village chieftains. To Switzerland and England to harmonize in front of European elite. To Tokyo Disneyworld to play for Mickey Mouse. And to Honolulu to rouse listeners in a tropical paradise.

No destination is unimaginable or unattainable when band teacher Victoria Miller decides to make music and make dreams come true.

This summer, she’s leading the band of Detroit’s Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School — the Marching Crusaders — to Beijing to sound the horns, bang the drum and march in step at the Olympics.

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"I think children should see the world, and they should see there’s something beyond Detroit, and Michigan and the Unites States," Miller says. "You encourage them to play their instruments and do positive things, and stay out of trouble."

Young people, some of whom have barely ventured outside Michigan or who come from struggling households, will visit the most populous country in the world and experience how it welcomes the world to the planet’s biggest sporting spectacle.

Adrian Thompson, 16, is a Marching Crusader who plays the tuba. Last year, he was playing basketball for King. Ask him which gig is better.

"Since I’ve been in this band, it’s really changed me a lot," says Adrian. "I’m pretty happy that I joined now. Basketball teams don’t go nowhere. Bands, they go places."

Under Miller’s direction and determination, the King band raised about $470,000 to finance the trip.

"I teach them how to believe in themselves. And how to love themselves. When you build people to believe in themselves and love themselves, then you have a great band," Miller says.

Her students describe her as an inspiration, a gentle taskmaster, and a second mother — but they always call her Mrs. Miller.

What Miller says she enjoys most is watching kids grow.

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"You’ll see somebody who’s real shy and quiet. Or see somebody who’s very intelligent, smart and arrogant and into themselves. And you see them change, transform into beautiful young people that learn to work with others, and get along, and teach and make beautiful music," she says.

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