It’s all roses for USA East bandsters

by Robert Mitchell

About 20 Salvationist musicians from the USA Eastern Territory experienced the majesty of marching on New Year’s Day in the 135th Tournament of Roses Parade this year in Pasadena, Calif.

Denise Allen, divisional creative arts coordinator in the Salvation Army’s Western Pennsylvania Division, said around 20 band members took part and joined with others from around the country to form a group of about 150. Allen was a timbrelist.

“It was surreal,” Allen says. “Even from hearing other people’s stories, it was unbelievable to be there doing it. What was surreal was to see so many people lining the streets.”

The parade route was a long hike at 5.5 miles, but Allen said many band members got in shape by touring Disneyland a few days before.

“The adrenaline and seeing all the people and walking past the cameras knowing there’s millions of people watching—it’s just amazing,” Allen says.

Cheyanne Harris of the Lowell, Mass., Citadel was involved in marching band in high school and thought the Tournament of Roses Parade would be similar. Her feet didn’t hurt until after the parade was over.

“It was overwhelming in the moment because we had only practiced once as a full band with all the members, and then all of a sudden you’re on the street to perform,” Harris says. “The swarm of red really spoke to me. I was like, ‘Oh, this is it.’”

Harris was also cognizant that millions were watching on television around the world, especially when the band went by the cameras.

“We were instructed to not stop playing,” she says. “Just keep repeating. I think that was the hardest 10 minutes I’ve ever focused in my life.”

The Salvation Army has long been a part of the parade, also known simply as the Rose Parade, which features floats, bands, horses, and more. The parade was first held in 1890 and precedes the Rose Bowl football game later in the day.

Caring magazine, a Salvation Army publication from the USA Western Territory, said The Salvation Army “is the longest continual band to participate in the parade, having marched consecutively since 1920.”

This year’s Salvation Army band was led by Bandmaster Kevin Larsson, creative development director for the USA West’s Music Department.