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Marching in step with the best

Equipment checks, miles-long marches, 5 a.m. roll calls — training has begun for New Year’s Day activities in Pasadena, and it’s not just the football teams that are being put through the paces.

Five Glendale Unified student musicians this year earned coveted spots in the 82nd Tournament of Roses Honor Band, including Glendale High School junior Trevor Fritz, Hoover High School seniors Gregory Kalfayan and Allen Au and Crescenta Valley High School senior Kevin Velarde and sophomore Madison Artis.

Practices, some in water-filled shoes, are preparing them to weather the unexpected when they hit Colorado Boulevard on Jan. 1.

“We went to the Santa Anita Race Track parking lot and marched continuously in the rain,” Trevor said of his first day with the band.


The 240-member group, composed of student musicians from Pasadena City College and southern California high schools, is a mainstay of the New Year’s Day celebration. Nearly 500 musicians competed for the 140 spots allotted to high school students, said band director Kyle Luck. Some travel from as far as Riverside and Orange counties to participate.

Uniforms are provided, but the musicians are required to purchase matching gloves and shoes, Luck said. All equipment is checked before the buses are loaded.

If a student misses the bus, they miss rehearsal, and if they miss rehearsal, he or she might not be able to march in the parade, Luck said.

Training for the nearly six-mile Rose Parade route includes marching up and down the hills around Dodger Stadium. Students have endured twisted ankles and illnesses so as not to miss the opportunity to play in front of the crowds.


“It is wall-to-wall people the entire way,” Luck said. “There is not a moment in that parade where there are empty seats.”

Trevor, who was one of 110 people competing for 30 trumpet spots, said the most difficult part of the audition was reading and playing a piece of music on sight.

“It feels great being accepted,” Trevor said. “It has just been an amazing experience being a part of the band because everybody is so excited about music.”

The Tournament of Roses Honor Band is a great chance for young musicians to be part of a large, high-quality group, said Martin Rhees, director of instrumental music at Hoover High School.

“The experience of playing with like-minded and like-motivated people is something they will never forget,” Rhees said. “They are really going to cherish it. They are around people who are as motivated as they are, and as hard working as they are.”

Mathew Schick, instrumental music teacher at Crescent Valley High School, said it was an honor to have two Crescenta Valley students representing the school and the district in the parade. Schick himself played in the parade as a high school student.

“Even though the rehearsals and the practices are rough, it’s all worth it when you march down Colorado Boulevard,” Schick said.

Luck, who has marched in the band numerous times, both as a college student and director, said one of his favorite memories was getting stuck behind a broken-down float. The rows of musicians split down the middle, flowing around either side of the stalled float without missing a note.


The crowd went nuts, he said.

“The real joy comes from hearing these students performing, and seeing the excitement on their faces,” Luck said. “When they play, it is just magical.”