Rose Parade caps stellar year for marching band

January 23, 2016 — by Karissa Dong and Katherine Zhou

Marching band's Rose Bowl parade recap.

As members of the marching band and colorguard performed Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” during Pasadena’s 127th annual Rose Parade on Jan. 1, they saw thousands of eager spectators packed into the street curbs on Colorado Boulevard, a quarter of a mile into the 7-mile march, where the live television broadcast cameras focused on them.

“Performing for such a huge event was incredible,” junior general manager and trumpet player Peter VandeVort said. “[At one point], we passed by this tower with balconies, and each and every one of them was packed with people [trying] to get a view of us. It really helped me realize the magnitude of the event that we were in.”

After sending in an application two years agowith video recordings, detailed letters of recommendation and a portfolio of accomplishments — the school’s band was among the 18 bands selected to perform in the prestigious event. The band played “Don’t Stop Believin’” nonstop for the parade’s first mile; for the remaining 6 miles, the musicians alternated between playing that piece, performing the percussion routine and playing Russian Christmas Music.

Leaving Saratoga on Dec. 28, the musicians returned from their excursion in the Los Angeles area on Jan. 2, exhausted but proud of their immense achievement. Dedicated months of practice, as well as rehearsals starting the day after Christmas, had helped prepare them for the daunting trek.

“All the Rose Parade performances were beyond our expectations as staff,” music director Jonathan Pwu said. “The students performed well, overcame obstacles on the spot and had the stamina to finish the entire route without anyone dropping out.”

With an exact 110-degree turn onto Colorado Boulevard, the marching band hit the right notes at the right time while the color guard performed its show in red and black uniforms and silky white flags.

“Everything went as planned, including the turn, which we had practiced many times during rehearsal,” junior alto sax player George Wang said. “The [cheering people along the route] of Colorado Boulevard helped us push through.”

Before their big performance, band members visited Disneyland, spent time at the beach and attended a circus show. The eventful itinerary allowed them to relax and celebrate the end of the holiday season with friends, Wang said.

In addition, Pwu commended the musicians for their behavior throughout the trip.

“The level of care and respect band members had for each other was very high and the band had a mentality of ‘we before me,’” Pwu said. “Band members [constantly] checked with each other regarding health, gave each other reminders and overall just watched out for everyone on the trip.”

The Rose Parade concluded this year’s marching band season. After a highly successful year — from a sweeping victory at Bands of America in November to the ostentatious display at the Rose Parade — band members now look forward to concert season: freshman band, symphonic band, jazz band and Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SWE).

In March, musicians will be participate in the California Music Education Association (CMEA) competition.

“Looking back on the season, we have this tendency to come together in the end,” VandeVort said. “We buckled down as a family and worked hard to prepare ourselves. I couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out.”

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