In one month, 85 million people will watch them march through the boulevards of Pasadena, Calif. But on a Monday after class, under the lights of the Irish Sports Dome, the members of the Rosemount High School band horn line diligently trace the route of the Rose Parade to the instruction of director Steve Olsen’s loudspeaker.
Marching in the storied New Year’s Day parade has been a year in the making for the Rosemount High and its directors, who applied in fall 2011 for one of the coveted 12 spots. It is the latest in a string of honors, which have included eight consecutive state championships and a WCCO’s Viewer’s Choice award for best high school marching band.
But for all the wins and awards, getting first place isn’t the band’s priority, said Bo Hoover, another of its three directors.
“We compete more against ourselves than anyone else,” he said. The focus is “how you can be the best that you can possibly be and what you can contribute to the group to help us become better.”
Student Lucas Monaghan, a junior in the drum line, agrees. His classmates take for granted that the band will win its competitions, he said, but for him, the thrill comes from “just being able to look back and see the whole show — I made that great. I made that show.”
Other bandmates talk about the same thing: being part of a creative team and making something together.
Senior drum major Emily Brossart first saw the appeal watching her older brothers perform in the band.
“Watching [so many] people moving in time together and making music together and all having that same purpose, that was just so amazing to me.”
And Brossart, who plans to study engineering at college, wanted to figure out how the band did it.
“Now I know,” she said. “A lot of work!”
That work starts at the beginning of July, when the band starts practicing for its field shows — performed at competitive band shows and at football halftimes — for four to five days a week, sometimes for eight hours a day. Monaghan, the junior cymbal player, had to find a more flexible part-time job to keep the demanding schedule.
Usually, the marching band’s season ends in October. But to prepare for the Rose Parade trip, the band is practicing some new music and keeping its field show fresh for performances at Pasadena City College and Disneyland. It is also doing a lot of marching laps on the artificial turf.
“We’re lucky we have this dome,” Brossart said. “Otherwise we’d be out in the snow.”
Along with more practice, the trip required a lot of fundraising. This year’s band fee cost about $2,000, which students and their parents have paid through individual and group fundraisers. Another $40,000 that the band needs is coming from group fundraisers. Hoover says almost all of the fundraising is done.
But talk to Jane Brossart, mother of Emily, and you won’t find a hint of stress over the car washes, concession stand volunteering or cookie dough sales.
“It’s not a burden,” she said. “The parents are as excited about it as the kids.”
“It’s a great group of parents to hang out with,” said Susan Tangen, whose son, George, is a junior drum major. She said that organizers of Bands of America Super Regional, a competition in St. Louis, have told Rosemount they buy the largest group of tickets of any band that competes.
Parents like Brossart and Tangen aren’t just taking pride in their children’s extracurriculars. To see the 208-member band is truly a show.
Tangen, who like many parents is traveling to Pasadena for the parade, contrasts it with her and her husband’s experiences in marching band. “I didn’t do anything these kids can do,” she said. “We did field shows, but we did nothing like this.”
Band members describe that performance — which includes intricate, swirling formations, solos on violin and guitar, snare drummers playing from the tops of ladders and choreographed flares of cymbals — as “so big you can’t watch it all.”
“There’s just so much going on,” junior marimba player Matt Skare said, “that you can’t take it all in, and that’s just huge.”
Another thing that’s huge: the crowd of 800,000 that will cheer them on to celebrate the new year.
“It still comes as a shock to me,” Monaghan said. “I’m going to the Rose Bowl parade. I’m marching in the Tournament of Roses.”
Graison Hensley Chapman is a Northfield freelance writer.