This story originally appeared on KERA News.
The Allen High School marching band will be in Pasadena, California, next week for the Tournament of Roses Parade. Getting the 700-plus members of the Eagle Escadrille across the country won’t be easy.
It’ll take eight flights and 15 charter buses to make the trip happen.
About a week before departure, the students were busy packing hundreds of instruments.
“Oh my God!” says one student as he spots two of his bandmates trying really hard to pack a resonator. Those are the tubes that hang from the bottom of the marimba, which is kind of like the xylophone, and helps amplify the sound. The students are trying to wrap the piece with flattened boxes that have been taped together.
“Guys! Get it right,” the student says. Another group looks on and laughs.
Controlled chaos is how some might describe the scene.
But this is also the experience of a lifetime – the chance to be on national TV on New Year’s Day. The Allen Escadrille was one of 13 high school bands selected to participate in the parade and the only one from Texas. And these kids are really looking forward to the trip, including 17-year-old junior and percussionist Katie Hsu.
“It’s so exciting,” Katie says. “There’s just so much that’s gone into this and, like, we put in a lot of work to get where we are now and we’re still putting in work now like breaking everything down, getting 700-plus students to go to California, and it’s just really cool to be marching in a parade like this and just showing our stuff.”
Band director Blane Hinton says getting selected for the Rose Parade is tough. The application process includes a three-minute video, letters of recommendation from elected officials and community leaders, and a fundraising plan.
The total cost of the trip: $1.2 million.
The students held car washes and sold mattresses to raise the money, and also got corporate sponsorships. It’s quite the production. This band, though, is used to putting on big shows every week in the country’s largest high school football stadium, Hinton says.
“On Friday nights, including everything – equipment, uniform, things like that – it’s like over $2.3 million of taxpayers’ money that’s presented in grand fashion every Friday night or at any competition,” Hinton says.
The parade isn’t everything Hinton and the students have to look forward to in California. They’ll also march at Disneyland and in an exhibition of high school bands called Bandfest.
How did Hinton feel six months ago?
“I felt terrible. My stomach was with knots,” Hinton says. “But now, today, oh, I’m so relaxed because everything is done. You know, it’s all organized. We have confirmations on everything. The tickets are bought. The chaperones are organized. We’re organized. All we have to do is just have a great time.”
Some of the kids say they’re nervous – 750-plus students marching for more than 7 miles while also playing their instruments.
Cameran La Tour, who’s 14 and a freshman, says she’s worried about other stuff, too.
“The most thing that I’m nervous about is like the shower schedules between all the girls because there’s a lot of girls in one room,” Cameran says. “And I’m nervous about the actual Rose Bowl march. You know, just to make sure that we don’t forget our music and stuff.”
Along the parade route, they’ll play some familiar tunes to Texans – The Yellow Rose of Texas, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and March Grandioso.