Mercer Island High School’s marching band recently performed in its annual Homecoming parade throughout downtown. While it may have appeared to be like any other Homecoming parade, there was a unique addition to this year’s band.
In 2012, the MIHS band marched with Banda Escolar de Guayanilla (BEG) from Puerto Rico in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. The parade is considered America’s New Year celebration, and only invites about 20 bands from around the globe to perform.
The two bands were reunited when they learned they were selected to perform together again in this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade. However, many band members from BEG believed they wouldn’t be able to attend due to the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
“A lot of their families were having to decide whether they wanted to send their kid to the Rose Parade or put a roof over their house,” former student Paige Robertson said.
Parker Bixby and Robertson came up with the idea to raise money for the members of BEG to ensure their presence at the Rose Parade.
Through silent auctions and various fundraisers organized by the MIHS bands and band boosters, they have raised about $33,000.
“When we first decided to do this, we thought we should just raise as much money as we can, but then we thought, ‘We don’t know how to best help them. We haven’t seen how they do stuff,’” Robertson said. “So, six of us plus Bixby and his daughter went down to Puerto Rico over spring break just to see how they do stuff, and see how we can best use our band to make a lasting partnership with them… We want this to be something that lasts more than just the Rose Parade.”
When they returned, they had a better idea of how to best support BEG and formed stronger relationships between the two bands.
The goal is raise enough funding to allow every member of the 150-piece band to perform in the Rose Parade.
With a $3,000 donation from the Mercer Island Masons, six members from BEG, including their two directors, marched alongside the MIHS band at this year’s Homecoming parade.
“It’s just been amazing to have them here, and we’re just so thankful for this experience,” Bixby said.
Addi Arvish, one of this year’s MIHS band leaders to Puerto Rico, said it’s been an eye-opening experience for her.
“It’s making me realize how hard people work sometimes for things they really believe in,” she said. “So, hearing these stories about how these guys work so hard to get into the Rose Parade, and then realize that they might not be able to go is heartbreaking to me… it’s like how can I get that opportunity but they don’t?… They deserve it just as much as I do.”
Jonuel N. Lopez Martinez, a member of BEG, said BEG wouldn’t have a chance to make it here if it weren’t for the MIHS bands and other sponsors.
“You guys are one of the pillars that keep us motivated because you guys have done so much, and we’re just so grateful for everything you’ve done for us. It shows us that there’s still good in this world and that music can break any barrier,” he said.
The MIHS bands hope to continue to raise funds to send all members of BEG to the Rose Parade Dec. 30. To learn more, visit https://misbb.wordpress.com/banda-escolar-de-guayanilla/.