By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/VrQktk
Members of the All-District High School Honor Band of the Los Angeles Unified School District rehearse in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium on Dec. 28, 2012. During the final two weeks before the Rose Parade, the band spends more than 160 rehearsal hours on the rolling hills of the immense parking lots at Dodger Stadium perfecting its musical and marching skills. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)
12/28/2012 08:27:41 PM PST :: The sounds of the brass and drums soared over Chavez Ravine on Friday as the columns of student musicians, their sneaker-clad feet churning, marched up and down the rolling hills of the Dodger Stadium parking lots.
They were practicing the music and memorizing the choreography, but the 350-plus members of Los Angeles Unified's All-District High School Honor Band were also training for the 5 1/2-mile Tournament of Roses Parade route they'll tackle on New Year's Day.
"Marching is even harder than playing," said Khuyen Nguyen, an accomplished flute player from Cleveland High, who took up the 10-pound baritone just two months ago so she could participate in the brass- and percussion-only group.
Members of the All-District High School Honor Band of the Los Angeles Unified School District rehearse for their Rose Parade performance in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium on Dec, 28, 2012. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)
Now in its 41st year, the Honor Band draws musicians from high schools around the district. Horn players -- trumpet, trombone, baritone, mellophone and sousaphone -- are recommended by their music teachers, while auditions are held for drummers, the flag and shield teams, and the drum majors who lead the band.
The musicians rehearse every Saturday beginning in the fall, then every day of winter break -- forgoing vacations, hanging out with classmates or just sleeping in for the rigorous practice sessions.
They're booked this weekend, too, performing today at Disneyland and on Sunday at Bandfest, a showcase of Tournament of Roses musicians.
"We get to play with so many people and make so many new friends," said Keira Fernandez, a 17-year-old drummer at North Hollywood High School who marches with a 40-pound quad set braced against her 110-pound frame. "It's so worth it."
The kids' enthusiasm is matched -- if not exceeded -- by band director Tony White, who, 28 years ago, played cymbals with the group as a senior at Narbonne High.
"The band represents not only LAUSD, but all of Los Angeles," said White, now the performing arts coordinator for LAUSD's Beyond the Bell Branch.
"It gets youths involved, and gives them a sense of belonging, a positive experience ... For some of these kids, this will change their lives."
Verdugo High senior Dorian Lopez picked up a trumpet for the first time this year at the urging of his campus mentor, music teacher Victoria Lopez. She recommended him for the Honor Band despite his inexperience, and Dorian thrived under the discipline that White demands.
"It's been such a fun experience -- the energy, the music," said Lopez, who plans to enlist in the Marines and audition for the Corps' prestigious band.
Many of the band members are veterans, returning year after year for the connection they make with other young musicians and the chance to march in the nationally televised Rose Parade.
They'll have to arrive well before dawn for Tuesday's parade, which starts at 8 a.m., marching 58th in the 92-entry lineup of floats, equestrian groups and other marching bands.
"It's really, really cold, especially your toes and nose," said Jetzell Verduzco from Southeast High, returning for the second year as a member of the flag team that performs at the rear of the band.
"But it's a fun experience getting to bond with other students and go from being from different schools into performing as one group."
Wilson High senior Jerry Pulido also is back for his second year, this time as head drum major, leading the columns of musicians as they perform a rotation of six songs.
"Running the whole band - the respect you get as a drum major - is really, really incredible," said Pulido, wiping the sweat from his forehead during a break from Friday's rehearsal.
The Sousaphone section of the All-District High School Honor Band of the Los Angeles Unified School District rehearses at Dodger Stadium. on Dec. 28, 2012. The terrain simulates the rigors of the six-mile Rose Parade route. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)
Retired Lincoln High Principal Art Duardo, a longtime volunteer for the band, knows that training and adrenaline will take the musicians only so far. The drummers' arms will be aching, the horn players' lips will be burning and everyone's feet will be throbbing before they reach the end of the two-hour trek down Colorado Boulevard.
"At one point, there's nothing left," Duardo said. "All they'll have is heart."
On the webwww.laallcityband.com