The Rose Parade draws an estimated live audience of approximately 700,000, in addition to the more than 40 million people who watch the parade on television.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Mark Reczek.
A sousaphone player and a senior at Lincoln-Way East High School, Reczek was among the students selected to participate in the elite marching band.
The group also included clarinetist and junior Michael Bockwoldt, who also attends East, flutist Frankie Kestel, a junior at Lincoln-Way Central, and Rachel Anderson, who plays the flute and is a senior at Lincoln-Way North.
The Bands of America Honor Band is an audition-only international marching band for young musicians in grades 9-12, as well as freshman in college. The band is assembled once every four years to play in the Rose Parade. This year, 299 students from 31 states and Canada were selected to participate.
“Getting accepted is not easy,” said Bert Johnson, who is the music department chair for Lincoln-Way North and Lincoln-Way East.
The four students selected from the Lincoln-Way community auditioned last winter and spent the summer practicing for the big day. During the parade, the honor band performed "Stars and Stripes Forever," "Firework" and "Reflections of Earth." The students were required to submit recordings of themselves playing the selected songs in the months leading up to the parade, so that band officials knew they were practicing.
“I really had to push myself,” said Bockwoldt.
Once they arrived on the West Coast, the four Lincoln-Way musicians spent three days rehearsing in Los Angeles before marching in the parade in Pasadena. The parade route was longer than most — 5.5 miles, which translates to almost four hours of marching. Competitive marching band routes are typically closer to 1.5 miles.
However, Anderson said she was prepared for the intense atmosphere — she is a member of her school’s marching band, as are all the Lincoln-Way students who played in the Rose Parade.
“It was really cool to be surrounded by kids that love to do music as much as you do,” Anderson said.
Kestel is even a veteran of the Bands of America Honor Band. When she was a seventh grader, in 2009, she carried the banner for the previous generation of parade participants after she auditioned for the band, but was told she was too young to march as a musician. A few weeks ago, she finally achieved a dream that was years in the making.
“I was so excited,” Kestel said.
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