Rose Parade viewers will have a second Talawanda District student to look for Jan. 1 with the announcement high school junior Wesley Howard will be marching in the Salvation Army band in the 5.5-mile parade.
It was announced several weeks ago Mary Perkins, 14, a Talawanda Middle School eighth grader, will be riding on a float sponsored by Northwestern Mutual to bring awareness of childhood cancer and the company’s sponsorship of summer oncology camps.
Howard applied for the Salvation Army band over the summer and was notified by e-mail Nov. 15 of his selection to play in the band marching in the Rose Parade.
He said his family moved to Collinsville from Middletown three years ago and the family has strong connections to the Salvation Army. His mother, father and a younger brother play for the area division of the Salvation Army band. Two younger siblings—ages 8 and 10—are practicing hard to also join the band.
“I was highly recommended (for the Rose Parade band) because of my connection to the Salvation Army. A lot of my family are members in the Salvation Army,” he said.
In that e-mail notifying him of his selection to play in the Rose parade band, Howard was also sent two pieces of music to practice and learn for the parade—“This is Our Story” and “Amazing Grace.” He said he does not know how many musicians will be in the band but said the roster was sent in that e-mail and it is a lengthy list.
His application consisted of a lot of paperwork, but no audition tape or sample of his playing. He said his connections and familiarity with him through competitions in the local division earned him good recommendations which got him the invitation.
He plays cornet, which he describes as “like a smaller trumpet,” and he has been playing it for a long time.
“I’ve played it since I was about 7, when my grandma introduced me to it,” he said. In addition to the Salvation Army band, he is also sharing his music at the high school. “I was going to try out for the Jazz Band but decided not to. I am in Marching Band and Concert Band.”
He leaves Wednesday for California, where he looks forward to visiting Disneyland and Hollywood in addition to marching in the New Year’s Day parade. He will leave to come home Jan. 2 and is expected to arrive back home at 3 a.m. Jan. 3, the day before Talawanda starts school for the second semester.
He expects to be tired from the travel, but will have stories to tell family and friends.
Howard said he enjoys playing music and likes being part of the band which plays primarily at church although there are opportunities to play in a wider area.
The Salvation Army has divisions around the country such as the Swoeky Division which includes southwestern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky. There is a spring competition called “Star Search” where band members compete within the division and winners advance to territorials.
Howard said he is excited for the opportunity to take part in what is one of the best-known and most-watched parades of the year.
“It’s something I never thought I would be able to do. My mom told me about it and I said, ‘Heck, yeah, I’ll go for it,’ ” he said. “It will be hard on my feet, for five-and-a-half miles. I’ll be ready. The parades for Talawanda are not over a quarter-mile. It’s going to be interesting.”