Happy New Year, everybody! One of my favorite activities of New Year’s Day is to watch the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, whether in person or by telecast. Since I was born in Pasadena, this unique, flower-inspired parade has always been very special to me. I have many happy childhood memories of standing on the curb on Colorado Boulevard to watch the spectacular floats, outstanding bands, and wonderful equestrian groups march by. This year, I was especially impressed with the many talented high school bands that participated in this marvelous parade. Let’s pay tribute to them!
The Hawaii All State Marching Band Na Koa Alii is one of the most impressive high school bands in this year’s parade. This three-hundred-ninety-five-member band is comprised of student musicians from forty different public and private schools representing the state of Hawaii. I truly enjoyed the talented Native Hawaiian dancers that accompanied this impressive band. The massive group gathered under the expert leadership of Managing Director John R. Riggle, who was the band director at Kamehameha Schools from 1977 until his retirement in 2009, and Lead Music Director Kerry Wasano, current band director at Maui High School in Kahului, Hawaii. Kerry is in his fifteenth year at Maui High School, where he conducts the Concert, Symphonic, Marching, and Pep Bands. He graduated from Maui High School in 1989, completed the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in music in 1996 at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and earned his teaching certificate in secondary education in 1998. Aloha!
Equally impressive was the Claudia Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson High School Marching Band from San Antonio, Texas, directed by Jarrett Lipman. Jarrett graduated magna cum laude with dual degrees in music education and euphonium performance from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. In this young school’s five-year history, Jarrett has led his two-hundred-nineteen-member band to earn both state and national recognition, having been named a finalist in the University Interscholastic League State Marching Band Contest in 2012, and having placed eighth at the Bands of America Grand National in 2011. They have also garnered the Winterguard International Scholastic Open Silver Medal in 2013, and the Texas Colorguard Circuit Scholastic Open Gold Medal in 2013. The most amazing feature of the Johnson High School Band is their inclusion of acrobats, a first for the Tournament of Roses Parade! Well done, Johnson Jags!
Then there was Band Director Kevin Long leading the very colorful two-hundred-forty-nine-member Liberty High School Grenadier Band from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Kevin is himself a 1981 graduate of Liberty High, and earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 1985. He has been his alma mater’s band director since 1990. When I watched this band, I truly enjoyed the authentic kilts, not to mention the twenty-two bagpipers, which sounded every bit as impressive as a four-hundred strong “mass bands” at Highland Games! The Grenadier Band musicians wear the exact uniform of the Coldstream Guards of the official band of Queen Elizabeth of England. The bagpipers wear the uniform of Her Majesty’s Scots Guard Pipers. Eighty of the musicians wear genuine bearskin hats, and the pipers all wear traditional feather bonnets. The majorettes wear a uniform inspired by highland dress and a Guards musician’s tunic. Very nice, Grenadiers!
Lafe Cook directed the Dobyns-Bennett High School Marching Indian Band from Kingsport, Tennessee. Lafe is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he served as the drum major for the Southland Marching Band. He is a former president of the Tennessee Bandmasters Association and a former member of the Board of Directors for the National Band Association. This gifted educator is also a four-time recipient of the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence, and he was recently honored by the John Philip Souza Foundation as a Sudler Flag of Honor Laureate. Lafe has been at Dobyns-Bennett High School for eleven of the sixteen years he has served as a band director. His talented group of student musicians can boast numerous achievements. They were named a Band of America Regional Finalist, a Band of America Grand Nationals Semifinalist, a Western Carolina University “Tournament of Champions” Grand Champion, a Middle Tennessee State University “Contest of Champions” Grand Champion, and a Tennessee State Marching Band Champion. This impressive three-hundred-fifty-member group also performed in President Barack Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Parade.
Then, of course, there was the two-hundred-seventy-five-member Westfield High School Marching Bulldogs from Chantilly, Virginia, directed by Stephen Panoff. “It’s just exhilarating — a bucket-list achievement for a band director,” Stephen expressed. “It’s one of those iconic moments you hope for, and I’m thrilled for the kids.” This thirty-year veteran teacher and band director earned his bachelor’s degree in both math and music from The College of William and Mary in 1983, and his master’s degree in music teacher education from Shenandoah University in 1998. Stephen’s talented students have been recognized as a Virginia Honor Band nine times, and they have been named an International Music Festival Grand Champion. The group has also earned the title of NYC Big Apple Music Festival Grand Champion. Way to go, Bulldogs!
Another impressive group was the two-hundred-eight-member Rosemount High School Irish Marching Band from Rosemount, Minnesota, directed by music educators Leon Sieve, Steve Olsen, and Bojan Hoover. Leon Sieve earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota, in 1993, and his master’s degree from the American Band College at Southern Oregon University, Ashland, Oregon, in 2005. Steve Olsen earned his bachelor’s degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and his master’s degree in music education from the University of Minnesota. Bojan Hoover, a third year teacher, earned his bachelor’s degree in music education and music performance from the University of Minnesota. Like the other bands that marched in this year’s Rose Parade, Rosemount students can boast an impressive list of achievements. Several times they have been named Minnesota State Marching Band Champions, Minnesota State Fair Parade Grand Champions, Bands of America St. Louis Super Regional Class AAA Champions, and Band of America St. Louis Super Regional Finalists. Well done, Irish!
With thirteen remarkable high school bands participating in the Rose Parade, it isn’t possible to fit them all into one blog post. But don’t worry about anyone being left out! Tomorrow, I’ll write about the other remarkable high school band directors and their impressive students who were chosen for the honor.