Lakota West marching band gearing up for Rose Parade

The Lakota West Marching Firebirds, one of only 18 bands selected to perform in the annual Pasadena, Calif., event, started practicing music for the New Year’s Day parade in late July, according to Greg Snyder, the band’s director.

Rehearsals will kick into high gear in November and December when the band starts practicing for two hours each Monday and Wednesday, circling Lakota West High School multiple times to prepare for the 5.5-mile parade route, he said. That’s double the amount band members walked in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“They have to be ready both physically and musically for that endurance test,” said Snyder, who guided band members in the Rose Parade in 2008.

While the band marched for miles then performed on live TV at the end of the Thanksgiving Day Parade route, the opposite will be true for the Rose Parade.

Band members will work to perfect making a 105-degree turn to get them ready for “TV Corner” — the turn they will navigate at the start of the parade.

“That’s where all the TV cameras are so we will practice that turn many, many, many, many times so we look great on international TV,” Snyder said.

Marching 11 members wide to fill up the street instead of the typical five members wide, the band will play an arrangement of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” for its televised appearance.”

But with the opportunity to participate in such a large-scale event, comes $517,000 in transportation, meals and equipment expenses for 253 students, 26 chaperones and eight directors, according Bill Hertz, spokesman for Lakota West Upbeat Club, the marching band’s parent booster group.

While the majority of those expenses are covered by each individual marching band family, the club is helping offset expenses via a large-scale fundraising campaign.

“Our mission is to help the band students in any possible way to help the students with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hertz said. “The original projected expense was $1,800 per student, so we’ve committed to raising money to at least offset $100 if not more per student.”

Another example of the club’s assistance includes it partnering with ABF Freight System of West Chester Twp. to help ship musical instruments, band equipment and student luggage to California.

During its Dec. 27 to Jan. 2 trip, band members will take part in an array of activities, including decorating a Rose Parade float, dining on the Queen Mary, visiting Universal Studios and attending a Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. Band members also will perform on the Santa Monica Pier and at the Tournament of Roses Bandfest.

“They treat the Rose bands like celebrities out there,” Snyder said. “It’s quite spectacular.”

Snyder said the Thanksgiving Parade and the Rose Parade are “the two greatest events a high school band can be in.”

“I’m sure we’re one of the very few bands in the nation that’s ever done both parades, let along done them in back-to-back years,” he said.

Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.