“It’s literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.” That’s how Lassiter High School Band Director James Thompson, Jr. describes what his band students are about to experience when they march in the iconic Tournament of Roses in California on January 1, 2019.
It’s an experience that the students have been working toward for months. It’s a grand finale to their months of fundraising for their trip across country and intense practice schedule.
During their fall semester, the Lassiter band students averaged three after-school practices during the school week, plus performances for the Friday night football games and band competitions. On some Saturday’s, the band students returned to the Lassiter campus for 12-hour practices. That’s right, 12-hours.
“This may sound like an extensive amount of time, but it’s necessary for us really to prepare like we need to,” said Carter Kubes, Lassiter senior and band president.
Because of the students’ commitment and their band director’s leadership, the Lassiter students will soon march onto the world stage where they will perform in front of tens of millions of people who line the parade route or watch the parade from around the world.
The Lassiter students are joining an elite group of marching bands. They were one of only 12 groups hand-picked to participate from hundreds of applications. Lassiter isn’t just representing the Cobb County School District, Marietta, or metro-Atlanta. Lassiter is the only marching band from Georgia!
The award-winning Lassiter marching band will join bands from around the world. There’s a band from Japan, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Canada, and Sweden.
“We are representing to the world. I think we have something very special in this community, and I think we have something to offer that the world truly needs to see,” praised the Lassiter band director.
This isn’t Lassiter’s first trip to Pasadena, California. This is the fifth time since 1988 that students have performed for the world in the Tournament of Roses.
One of the students who marched in Lassiter’s first trip in 1988 is now a parent of a Lassiter band student himself.
“I remember the feeling of exhaustion from parade practices designed to increase our marching and playing endurance so that we would be at our best for the entire 5.5-mile parade. I remember the frustration felt as we worked to perfect the sharp right turn we would ultimately make onto Colorado Blvd.,” Michael McCabe recalled about the last time he wore the Trojan band uniform. “To this day, I think about my Tournament of Roses Parade experience when the going gets tough. I encourage myself to work hard, do it right, and finish strong.”
McCabe, who now volunteers as a band-parent to load the trucks and trailers with equipment, can still recall the chill in the air, the nervous anticipation, excitement and the rush of adrenaline as the crowds cheered.
It’s the same feeling the new generation of Lassiter Trojans will feel as they step onto the parade route. Their band director still recalls his first trip to the Tournament of Roses and seeing community members across generations come together to put on the parade.
“It was the most magical event,” explained Thompson, whose eyes twinkle whenever he talks about the Tournament of Roses parade. “It has really inspired me to create a culture of the band of being your best, of service, and of giving.”
Thompson wants to give his students the opportunity to share their “tremendous” talent and culture with the whole world.
“Our show is called ‘Melody of Life,’ and it corresponds with the theme of the parade,” the band director beamed. “It is about the healing gift of music and how music brings people together. It is a universal language.”
Like McCabe and Thompson, the Lassiter students will soon make their own memories along the 5.5-mile parade route, memories that will last a lifetime.