Tournament of RosesCredit:, man, practice. I'm paraphrasing the old Carnegie Hall joke, but for many who are venturing out to Pasadena, California to be part of the pageantry and tradition of the longest-running parade in the history of the United States, this is exactly what it takes. For young people who are members of marching bands, the journey starts a year or two in advance with lots of planning and work.

One band in particular, the Bands of America Honor Marching Band, starts its planning about four years in advance of its next Rose Bowl parade appearance. This combined band features students from every state in the nation. Students audition electronically, making a recording and e-mailing it to the Bands of America staff for evaluation. A resume must be submitted, too.

Although the honor band features over 300 members - musicians, flag carriers, and dancers - it's not easy to gain acceptance. These outstanding musicians are the tops at their schools as well as in their state. Many are All-State musicians and hold a myriad of awards and honors. As soon as the students are accepted, they start learning the music for the Rose Bowl parade.

Frequent checks of progress are made via recorded files that are sent to the band staff. After evaluating the submissions, the staff sends back comments and suggestions for improvement.

Of course, raising funds is a big part of getting to the Rose Bowl parade for student musicians. Selling candy, holding car washes and spaghetti dinners, and working part-time jobs are common ways of getting the cash together to cover air fare, cost of the Bands of America membership, and all the other incidentals that come up on a trip like this. 

Selected band members work hard to raise the funds to get to Pasadena.  One member of the Bands of America Honor Marching Band financed her trip to the Rose Bowl parade by delivering the Des Moines Register in her home town. She got up at 3:30 a.m. to bag and deliver newspapers every day while keeping up with her school work and music activities.  Other students worked at fast food restaurants, at grocery stores or at movie theaters. 

Lots of hard work awaits the students even after they arrive in Los Angeles. With a group that has never met, let alone played before, it's crucial to hit the ground running. Rehearsals and sectionals are intense as the clock ticks down to the January 1st Rose Bowl parade. Throw in performances at Pasadena City College and Disney Land, with some fun trips at the float building tents and must-see Hollywood attractions, and the pace is nonstop.

Then the big day arrives - January 1st - and it's time to step off down Colorado Boulevard in The Granddaddy of Them All - The Tournament of Roses Parade! It's an exhausting five-mile course, packed with spectators and cameras broadcasting all the excitement around the world.  In the end, each band member will tell you that it was all worth it for the experience of a lifetime.