How does a young musician prepare for the audience of a lifetime? Start with a cutthroat audition process, add instrument checks, 5 a.m. call times and 5-mile practice marches, and then follow the piccolos down Colorado Boulevard.
That is the routine for 11 Glendale Unified students readying to march with the 83rd Tournament of Roses Honor Band in the Rose Parade on Jan. 2. Among them are two herald trumpeters, an elite contingent that precedes the Rose Queen and her court on the 5 1/2-mile route.
“I have watched the Rose Parade for years,” said Josh Briggs, 17, a Hoover High School drum major who will perform with the herald trumpets on Jan. 2. “I have been to the Rose Parade, and I have always wanted to do this. This is the year that it finally worked out. I am really excited to be performing with these guys.”
In addition to Josh, the participating Glendale Unified students include Madison Artis, Weston Foote, Aaron Hancock, Riley Scott and Mac Wright of Crescenta Valley High School and Melia Badalian, Alec Mouradian, Jonathan Sie, Trevor Fritz and Garrett Fritz of Glendale High School.
The band is a storied tradition, even amid festivities that date back to 1890. Its 228 members — student musicians from Pasadena City College and Southern California high schools — will play for a live audience of about 700,000 and a television audience in the tens of millions.
This year, 543 teenagers, some traveling from as far as Riverside and Orange counties, competed for 146 spots allotted to high school students, director Kyle Luck said.
Auditions take place in October and include a two-minute prepared solo, a chromatic scale, on-spot memorization and on-spot sight reading. Rehearsals started in November at Pasadena City College.
“We got all of our music, we had to memorize it and almost immediately we went out and started marching,” Josh said.
This week, the band split its time between performances at Disneyland and Good Samaritan Hospital and rehearsals at Dodger Stadium.
“When you get into your fourth lap around Dodger Stadium you are pretty tired,” Josh said. “Your arms are tired, and your lips are tired from playing.”
Still, they are happy to put in the long hours and many miles, students said.
“They are getting us really prepared — fit and ready to go for the day of the parade,” said Alec, 17, a clarinetist from Glendale High School. “I am a little sore but it is too fun to complain.”
Marching with the Tournament of Roses band is an honor for any high school student, said Glendale High music director Amy Rangel.
“Once they are accepted into the honor band, that is when the real work begins,” Rangel said. “The students give up weekends and vacation time to rehearse with the band. They have a lot of music to memorize and have to prepare physically.”
Mac, 17, who was also selected as a herald trumpeter, auditioned after Crescenta Valley High School band director Mathew Schick shared that his own march down Colorado Boulevard ranked as one of the top 10 experiences of his life.
“It is this intense, rigorous program and it is all about the music,” said Mac, who intends to study music in college.
By the time the parade starts on Monday, band members will have logged 100 rehearsal hours, Luck said.
“When we finally get there it is a bit of a release,” Luck said. “It is a great deal of work, a great deal of preparation, a great deal of stress — and it pays off that day.”