Alum joins MIHS music staff to prepare for Pasadena

Bryan Wanzer, MIHS Class of 2007. - Contributed Photo
Bryan Wanzer, MIHS Class of 2007.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

When Bryan Wanzer, a recent Mercer Island High School graduate, played in the school’s marching band, he says he had the time of his life.

But when he got to college, he realized the Mercer Island music program had actually changed his life. “Mr. Bixby and (former band director) Mr. Haberman were definitely the driving force for me to be an educator,” Wanzer said. “I wanted to have a job where I was excited to come in every day. And for me, band was the period I always looked forward to.”

So after Wanzer graduated from the University of Montana last spring, he began applying for jobs in music education. Wanzer says he worried it would be tough to find a job because there are few openings in the field, particularly since he limited his job search to the Pacific Northwest.

And guess what? The Mercer Island High School Band was looking for a part-time director to help the band prepare for its winter trip to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Wanzer, who played clarinet for the band when it marched in the Pasadena parade in 2006, was a perfect match.

“I was so excited to start,” says Wanzer about receiving the call from band director Parker Bixby telling him he got the job.

Now, Wanzer is hard at work with Bixby and co-director Ryan Lane as they prepare the band to participate in the highly selective Tournament of Roses Parade.

Wanzer’s warning for this year’s marching band: beware, anything can happen.

That’s because in 2006, Wanzer and his fellow bandmates spent countless hours of work preparing for the parade and its festivities. Then when they finally arrived in Pasadena, a huge rainstorm hit Southern California. There was so much rain that one of their main performances, an 11-minute field show at Pasadena City College, had to be moved indoors.

“While it definitely wasn’t what we hoped for weather-wise, it was more than what we hoped for experience-wise,” says Wanzer of the trip.

Wanzer feels that his previous experience marching in Pasadena will help, regardless of the weather this winter. “I think (my experience) will definitely help this year,” he said. “While it’s a different band, and a different group of kids, it’s still going to be a similar experience to the one that I had.”

After having said his goodbyes to the band program four years ago, Wanzer says he’s delighted to be back and adjusting quickly to his new role. “I have no second thoughts, but it is a little weird walking down the halls again,” he says.


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