Band Marches Past Crisis to Triumph : Music: The band at Schurr High has overcome a tough financial year and will make its first appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade.


The Schurr High School Band had a little more to worry about this year than getting the notes right and the marches in step.

The band and other music programs were hit with funding cuts as part of a massive budget crisis in the Montebello Unified School District. The band’s annual trip to Disneyland, where band members would perform and then enjoy the rides, has been scrubbed. Band members cleaned their own uniforms and repaired their own instruments. They even paid $5 for bus tickets to the Montebello High football field, where Schurr plays its home games.

But the band played on. And for 212 musicians and the 56-member pageantry corps, the worst of times are about to become the best of times. On Wednesday, the band will make its first appearance ever in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

Band director Leonard Narumi, his band and others who have supported it have pulled together, almost like a family, to show that reports of the demise of music in Montebello were premature.


This year, for example, band members and their parents plan to raise $10,000 to $15,000, twice as much as normal, through such fund-raisers as cookie sales, spaghetti dinners and recycling drives to help offset the budget cuts. In addition to paying for cleaning uniforms, the money will be used to buy needed uniform accessories, photocopy music and repair instruments, among other band needs.

The band’s march to the Rose Parade began with practice sessions at 6:45 a.m. every weekday. There also were regular band classes, Saturday rehearsals and practicing at home.

The long-awaited invitation to the parade was a high point for a band program that has grown steadily since Narumi, a 1975 Schurr graduate, became the school’s instrumental music teacher in 1983. The band has grown from about 70 students to more than 200 since then.

The band is so popular that a Schurr football player decided he would rather spend game nights with the band than the football team--and joined Narumi’s squad.


Another band member, senior drum major Luis Delgado, stays in the band despite holding down a custodial job that requires him to work from 6 to 10 p.m. five nights a week.

The band also earned an invitation this year to perform Christmas Day at the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii. The district could not pay the transportation costs, however, and band members could attend only if they paid their own way. About half of the band members made the trip.

Delgado could not accompany the band, but on the day after Christmas, he rose early to practice with other members who stayed home. “I’m tired, but we need it,” he said. “I want the band to look as good as it can for the Rose Parade.”

Delgado, who also is a percussionist, said his enjoyment of band has motivated him to work hard in other classes.


“The reason that I wake up in the morning is that I get to come here,” he said, referring to the band room. “It’s not like work and study, study, study. There’s more fun to school because of the band. . . . It’s hard work, but it doesn’t seem like work.”

Narumi said 90% of his students will not pursue music beyond high school, but he hopes they will get more from their band work than an appreciation of Sousa.

“It’s not just the music,” Narumi said. “A lot of these kids are not going on to be music majors, but I hope they’re going to be productive members of society.” He said he wants his musicians to learn to be competitive, respectful, and to work toward excellence in all things.

Narumi sets the tone for his musicians’ dedication. He seems to be omnipresent for his musicians--on the practice field, or in the chaotic band room where awards overflow the trophy case and fill every shelf on one side of the room. He sometimes will help band members with personal as well as musical problems.


A tireless perfectionist, Narumi will scold the band for its mistakes, but usually ends the criticism with a joke.

On New Year’s Day, band members will meet at 4:30 a.m. for the ride to Pasadena, and each section will begin its good-luck ritual. The nine trombonists will click instruments, in toast fashion. The tuba players will strap on their instruments and perform a wild circle dance. The percussion clan will do its chant, ending with a traditional grunt, and beat cadences as the lines begin to form.

Drum major Delgado will spin his baton and step to the front.

During the seven-mile march, they will play “Dances With Wolves,” an “E.T."/"Star Wars” medley and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Millions of spectators will see the band, in its place between a float sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventists and a float from a union representing bakery, confectionery and tobacco workers.