The 200-member Marching Raider Band will be participating in the 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day. It is one of only 20 bands selected to perform in the parade, and will be the sole Georgia ensemble. To celebrate, the marching band performed part of its halftime show Saturday for parents, friends, the community and a couple of special guests — Rich Chinen, the president and chairman of the board for the Tournament of Roses, and his wife, Kim.
The Chinens were there to present the Walton band with its official invitation to march in the parade, an event Chinen said attracts more than 85 million viewers worldwide. That’s more than those who tune in for the football game, although, with 2015 marking the first college semifinal to be played at the Rose Bowl, Chinen told the crowd, “All you Georgia fans out there, you do have a shot!”
The Pasadena lawyer was a football player growing up, but said, “I’d trade in my helmet any day now for a couple of the dings and the concussions I had for a trumpet.”
Chinen said he’s been involved with the Tournament of Roses for 25 years and leads the organization from a business perspective. The Chinens voluntarily spend about a third of the year traveling the globe to visit the bands that will march in the parade to raise community support.
Getting Walton to the Rose Parade has been a lengthy process, and it is not cheap.
Booster Michele Reale said the weeklong trip will cost about $3,000 per student. The band has been working to raise money, including selling advertising space to local businesses and raffle tickets for a Holland America cruise, which was awarded Saturday night.
Band director Mike Back said Walton submitted its application to perform in May 2013, and it learned the next fall it was among the bands invited.
“As far as parades go, there’s no better than the Rose Parade,” Back said, calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for his students.
Fifteen-year-old sophomore William Frits, a trombone player, agreed.
“Finishing it is one of the coolest things you can do as kids,” because it’s so rare to be invited, he said.
He anticipates the morning before the parade, just before the band steps off, will be a memorable moment, and he believes the most intimidating part is the length of the parade route, which is 5½ miles.
William said the band is performing in several parades this year to prepare, and Back said he plans on building up members’ stamina through several circuits around the school’s track.
Trumpet player and sophomore Ben Reale, 15, thinks he’s up to the task, but he might take up running again to ensure he’s fit enough for the parade.
Ben said he’s looking forward to making the trip to California, especially for its weather. “It’s a lot nicer than it is here,” he said.
Before presenting the band with a parade banner and baton, Chinen explained the 2015 theme for the Rose Parade is “Inspiring Stories.” He turned to the band and said they were all inspiring, calling them the future leaders of Marietta.
Chinen said wherever he travels, he tells school board members, superintendents, administrators and politicians, “Don’t ever cut music education because, from what we’ve seen, the heart and soul of the community is right here in your marching band.”