On January 2nd, I woke up at 3 AM to the sound of my alarm clock ringing. I quickly emerged from my bed, dressing in my uniform in what felt like seconds. Today, I was marching in the Rose Parade, an event that I’d only dreamed of watching in person. Marching alongside me that day would be 364 kids that have dedicated almost all of their winter break to prepare for this day. The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the country, and since 1973, the district’s Beyond the Bell has maintained the tradition of the LAUSD All-City Honor Marching Band. Every year (except for 2020-2021), the All-City Band has performed in Pasadena's annual Tournament of Roses parade. Along with the Rose Parade, the band has performed at Disney’s Magic Music Days, the MLK Kingdom Day Parade, Bandfest, and more. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the band's creation.
The 2022-2023 made history with 6 people from Eagle Rock performing in the band: Rye London, Michael Trejo, Melody Ruiz, Sharina Santos, Damien Wang, and myself.
We began practicing for All-City in October with weekly practices on Saturday (with a small break in November) only to start practicing again during winter break. Instead of being in the comfort of our homes, we found ourselves practicing almost every day for 2 weeks, from 8 am to 4 pm, for All-City. Locations for practice would range from the band’s home, El Sereno Middle School, Dodger Stadium, to Cal State LA’s campus. Depending on the location, we would condition for the parade or prepare for the field show. But the worse of these days would consist of conditioning at Dodger Stadium, a sentiment many participants of the band would agree with. To Melody Ruiz, Dodger Stadium was definitely the most challenging part of All-City, “Dodger ‘hell days.’ [It] truly [was] the most conditioning I’ve ever had to endure. I thought I was dying.” On these days, the band would march for miles in preparation for the infamous 5.5-mile trek for the Rose Parade. It was gruesome yet necessary work for the end goal.
Other than conditioning, the band also prepared for Bandfest, an event that features the bands participating in the Rose Parade through a field show. It was during these practices that competition for the Marching King began. One of the finalists for Marching King was our senior Damien Wang. “Honestly, I didn't expect it at all. All I know was there was a cameraman taking photos of me when we were marching.” Although he didn’t end up winning the coveted title, he still is thankful for the opportunity to be recognized as one of the best marchers of the ensemble. As to how he got the nomination? “If you ask me how, I'll say: no matter what you do, always try to do better, and if you think you are doing great, try to do better than great.”
Despite the hardships that came with All-City, it eventually all paid off when we reached the end of the parade. For Rye London, the feeling was indescribable. “I was super sweaty and tired but proud that I actually survived. We accomplished something difficult that most people can't do and kicked butt doing so.”
All-City not only provides students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to march in the Rose Parade but also an opportunity to connect with other talented musicians native to Los Angeles. However, Eagle Rock has never been much of a participant in the All-City tradition. According to Ms. Silverman, ERHS’s band director, the lack of participation in the event is most likely due to the commitments of many students in the band program: “Band kids run the school, and as a result, not many can commit themselves to march in All-City. It’s amazing to have this many kids march in the band with last year only having one of us.”
Ms. Silverman and the rest of the All-City marchers hope that more join next year. As Rye London states, “I really hope next year's group has a similar experience we had—getting to know everyone and build that shared experience is a great feeling that I can't wait to share with new people.”
Watch the band perform!