Though the Mercer Island High School Marching Band won’t march in the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade until Jan. 1, 2019, the celebration is beginning this month.
Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny and his wife, Trina, will be visiting Mercer Island next week, experiencing a string of activities that will culminate in a Rose Parade kickoff and fundraiser from 5-8 p.m. on March 29 in the MIHS commons and amphitheater. The president annually visits each band’s home town that is invited to participate in the Rose Parade.
At the event, the community can enjoy marching band music, a silent auction and raffle, food for purchase and a “passing of the flag” ceremony to Parker Bixby, co-director of the MIHS band program with Kyle Thompson.
“They will visit all our band classes, meet our students, our parents, our teachers, our administrators and our Island residents,” Bixby said. “We will work to share with them both all the aspects of what makes our Island so special and unique. We invite the entire community to our kickoff celebration on March 29.”
The kickoff will raise money for band scholarships, for students to attend the parade and for the recently established partnership with Banda Escolar de Guayanilla, a municipal Puerto Rican band whose participation in the parade has been jeopardized by Hurricane Maria.
The MIHS band is sending five students, Bixby and others to Guayanilla for spring break on a “fact finding mission” to figure out how they can help. In the meantime, they are selling rubber bracelets that say “Estamos Unidos” and “Island to Island” for $3.
The students are expected to meet with the Governor of Puerto Rico and Guayanilla civic leaders and march and play with Banda Escolar in their annual festival.
The Tournament of Roses’ theme this year, “The Melody of Life,” also reflects a spirit of unity and togetherness.
“[It] celebrates music, the universal language,” Freeny said in a press release. “Music has the power to not only bring us together but take us back to memories and moments as nothing else can. Rhythm, melody, harmony and color all come together to create the soundtrack that defines our lives.”
In addition to the band celebration, Freeny will experience the fine arts showcase at MIHS. As an active community member and former law enforcement officer in Pasadena, he will also speak at the Mercer Island Rotary meeting on March 27, and is scheduled to do a marine patrol ride along.
Freeny has been a volunteer member of the Tournament of Roses Association since 1988, and an Advisory Board of the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation since 2016. He has also served as president of the San Gabriel chapter of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives) and many other boards.
Around 20 bands are selected each year to participate in the Tournament of Roses parade. This will be the fourth appearance for the Mercer Island band, with the most recent in 2012. Banda Escolar has marched in four Rose Parades, including in 2012 with Mercer Island.
At nearly 300 members, the Mercer Island High School band program is one of the largest in the state. The marching band performs at all MIHS home football games during the year as well as the MIHS Homecoming Parade. For more information, visit mercerislandbands.com.