Band prepares for Tournament of Roses Parade


Emma Short

The flute section practices at rehearsal on Dec. 9. Since returning from the UIL State Marching Band Contest in San Antonio on Nov. 9, the band began marching long distances on the track during rehearsal to prepare for the 5 ½ mile trek they will complete in Pasadena.

The band has started preparation for its Tournament of Roses Parade performance in Pasadena, CA on New Year’s Day. 

“Normally we would have been completely done with marching band [after our contests in San Antonio],” senior saxophone section leader GianCarlo Lay said. “Right now, we are rehearsing two days a week, but [during] a normal year with no Rose Parade [invitation, marching band rehearsals] would be done. We’re conditioning ourselves to be able to march for a long time while playing, doing choreography and waving to the audience. We’re learning a lot of new things that we haven’t done before as a program.”

The program received an invitation to the parade based on their performance of the show “Among the Stars” at the Bands of America (BOA) Grand Nationals competition in 2019. The invitation was originally to the 2021 Tournament of Roses Parade, which was canceled due to COVID-19, so the invitation was extended to the 2022 parade.

“The Tournament of Roses music committee comes to the event and selects a band as an automatic bid based on their performances and rehearsals at Grand [Nationals],” head band director Andy Sealy said. “Those guys observed our rehearsals and performances and, unbeknownst to us until the moment they told us, they selected us to receive that automatic bid to what would have been the 2021 Tournament of Roses parade based on our performance at Grand [Nationals] in 2019.”

Ever since returning from the 2021 BOA Super Regional competition with a state champion title, the band’s rehearsals have transitioned to a more conditioning-based format to prepare for the 5 1/2 mile stretch that they will march in the parade. 

“Walking five miles is not necessarily a big deal; however, walking in a marching formation with marching technique and playing [an instrument] for five miles, that’s a different game,” Sealy said. “We’re having to do parade preparation, musical preparation and also some conditioning. We’re really trying to prepare the conditioning in their legs and in their brains and work on their music and [maintaining] a high-level marching show at the same time.”

The trip to California will entail four different performances from the band, including one at Disneyland, one at Long Beach State University and the Tournament of Roses Parade that will be covered by ABC, NBC, Home Garden Channel and several major networks. 

“It doesn’t feel real,” Lay said. “I don’t know what to expect from it honestly. I think we’ll be ready. At first it was kind of shaky because we tried implementing some new rehearsal procedures that we’ve never done before, [but] people are starting to get the hang of it. I think we’re definitely getting stronger at our marching – being able to stay in line, march longer and play longer – but certainly it’s difficult. It’s a conditioning thing – we get stronger every time we go.”

Following the band’s return to Dallas on Jan. 2, band members who advanced to UIL Area have auditions for UIL State on Jan. 8. They will begin intensive area-level preparation and master classes the day they return. 

“[Sealy] has been encouraging us to bring our concert instruments to practice our audition music while we’re in Pasadena,” Lay said. “For the people that are advancing to Area, that’s going to be a pretty heavy load – going to Pasadena, doing all the things we’re doing and finding time to practice for the audition that’s going to happen when we get back. I’m [also] going to have college auditions for schools of music and there are a ton of people in that same boat.”

Lay said that while it is a great opportunity going to the parade as a senior, he feels for the Class of 2020 who led the band to the Tournament of Roses invitation. 

“I’m grateful that I get to march in the rose parade in my last year [at Hebron],” Lay said. “I wish I could say the same for those seniors who graduated in 2020 [and] didn’t get to march in the parade. They’re really the ones who got us that opportunity. They dedicated a lot of their heart and soul into the show that we were extended the invitation for. It’s kind of like we’re going to the Rose Parade in honor of those seniors who didn’t get to go. That’s the emotional aspect of it – I’m excited to go but also I’m excited to do this for the people who weren’t able to.”