When the clock struck 12:00 am on New Year’s Day, most Southern Californians welcomed the year with cheers and celebrations. Others
camped outside or slept in to participate in the Tournament of the Roses Parade
in Pasadena. This New Year’s tradition began in 1890, where thousands of
spectators flocked to the Rose Bowl to watch the parade in the cold weather of
Pasadena up close, and in-person (though, now many watch through the comfort of
their televisions at home). Part of tradition every year involves selecting a
theme that the participants must follow to qualify; this year’s theme was
“Inspiring Stories”.

            To be apart of the parade, whether its
working on the float designs or participating in the parade, is such an
opportunity that cannot be missed during the preparatory phase. Luckily for us
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high school students, our marching
band becomes a respectable representation of our own high school. The idea of
combing high school musicians across LAUSD schools in Southern California arose
in 1973 by the help of district Director of Performing Arts John Deichman, with
teachers Don Dustin and Frank Harris, with the goal of having students perform
in the reputable Tournament of the Roses Parade. For the LAUSD All City band to
perform, it would require a minimum of one hundred students and ultimately pass
the audition process. Surely at the time only a few LAUSD students from Taft High School,
Granada High School, and Locke High School were able to participate, but as time grew on…so did
the dream. As of now, with such a huge outreach in the SoCal region, “sixty
plus highschools strive to participate in All City” (according to http://www.laallcityband.com/about.htm). All the high schools range from the
San Fernando Valley, to South Central, East Los Angeles, and the Harbor area,
each area with their own ambitious musicians who want to represent their
learning community and make memories as they march down Colorado Boulevard in
Pasadena.

            The story of the arising musician was
not across the SoCal region but in our own region, in Cleveland High School
music room. In 11th grade, he is Chudi Mbanefo, who this year was chosen
as a drum major for the Tournament of the Roses Parade. His journey began with
the audition of a drum major in which Chudi tells us that “leaving I didn’t
think I did so well because I was the only one who dropped the baton. Two weeks
later I got it. It was crazy, this year I was the only junior.”

            What makes Chudi’s story inspiring ties
in with the lack of funding of our arts program in LAUSD. This tragedy has its
light shined upon when CHS students come together to assemble a marching band
without a director, the work is put on their shoulders and the dedication can
be heard from their instruments. At the end of the day, at the halftime performances, at the parades, Cleveland still
shines and will continue to keep marching on. 

-Christian Santos  Twitter: @hoodphin

Sebastian Mino-Bucheli  Twitter: @LAVibeSeb

Music credits to “When the Saints Go Marching In” by Louie Armstrong and his Orchestra