Rose Bowl-bound band needs Island support

By Eddie Carden and Caitlyn Olson

Island Forum

As seniors, we will soon graduate from high school and be meeting people from all over the country. We imagine making repeated attempts to describe our hometown -- this little suburb of Seattle unbeknownst to anyone outside of Western Washington. What do we say? How do we convey the spirit of Mercer Island? Fortunately, we won't be floundering for long because come January, the MIHS marching band will do it for us on national television.

Last fall, the band received word that it had been chosen to participate in the 117th annual Tournament of Roses Parade. Two million people watch the parade event live and 450 million more watch it on TV every year -- that's 900 million eyes on the group representing Mercer Island, Wash., and the entire Pacific Northwest. ``Look,'' we will say to roommates, ``How cool is that? That's where I'm from!'' My community fosters passionate and dedicated youth and provides for them such incredible opportunities as marching in the 2006 Tournament of Rose Parade.

Seeking this fantastic opportunity, the marching band submitted its application last May. It included a video of the band in action as well as a letter of recommendation from former Gov. Gary Locke. Word of the band's acceptance came in the fall. The MIHS Marching Band is one of 17 high school bands out of hundreds of hopefuls to garner a spot at the parade, widely considered the ultimate standard of music education in the country.

But the work is just beginning. The 275-plus members of the band (approximately 20 percent of the high school student body) will devote countless hours preparing for the five-and-a-half mile march in the sweltering California heat. In addition to the physical training, students will fundraise their share of the total cost of the trip, which comes to over $300,000! Band members performed in a benefit concert in January that featured world-famous trumpeter Allen Vizzutti and brought in $16,000. The band also plans a raffle in April (heads up -- top prize is a Caribbean cruise), a car wash and will sell band Rose Parade merchandise.

If any community could rally behind and celebrate such an endeavor, we're confident that Mercer Island can. How do we know? During our years as a music students in this district, we have experienced first hand the overwhelming support of parents, teachers, administrators, and neighbors alike for the arts. Just think of the mob scene at the Fine Arts Showcase every year -- the battles over parking, standing-room only attendance, the elbowing to see the artwork lining the school hallways.

It is precisely this outpouring of encouragement that we want to convey to whoever we meet next year. The Rose Parade will accomplish the task perfectly. Hard-working, passionate students; enthusiastic, knowledgeable directors; quality instruments -- all made possible by a multitude of supportive Islanders. So when you watch the almost 300 students in matching black, white and maroon uniforms marching down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena on Jan. 2, consider the enormity of the band's accomplishment and take pride in being a member of the community that made it possible.

For more information about the band and its journey to the Tournament of Roses Parade, visit www.misd.k12.wa.us/


Caitlyn Olson plays flute and Eddie Carden plays trumpet in the Mercer Island High School Marching Band. The seniors are co-editors of the Mercer High Times newspaper.

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