Westfield High School Marching Band has just over four months left to meet its fundraising goal for a trip to Pasadena, Calif., where the 275 student musicians will march in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day.
“We’re hoping as we get closer [to the Rose Bowl Parade], people will start seeing us more [in the media] because we still need to raise money,” Panoff said. So far, the band’s fundraising efforts, which included car washes, cookie dough sales and door-to-door requests, have gathered $80,000 of the $125,000 goal.
“We’ve had about $50,000 in corporate donations. Inova hospital gave us $25,000,” Panoff said. Another large donation came from the graduating Class of 2012 in the form of a senior gift of $3,200 – enough funds for two scholarship trips for students unable to pay for the journey.
Even with these funds, Panoff said he is hoping to reduce the $1,600-per-student price tag. The $125,000 will cover the cost of truck transportation once in California and new band equipment and uniforms for the trip.
“If we can get beyond that $125,000, we can reduce the kids’ costs,” he said.
Fielding 275 players at $1,600, the total cost to students is $440,000, not including the $125,000 goal.
“We’ve had car washes like every week,” said junior Felix Park, 16, a clarinet player and drum major.
The Rose Bowl Parade is a big deal, Park explained.
“The application was very detailed. We had to show like every angle of our uniforms,” he said.
Fellow drum major Nick Falatko, 17, said, “It’s a lot of work just making the [application] video. Then we had to wait six months to hear back.”
Westfield is only the third Virginia public high school to march in the prestigious parade, staged prior to college football’s Rose Bowl. Richmond’s Hermitage High School marched in 1993 and Prince George High School was part of the parade back in the 1960s.
Panoff estimated that the application process took him and a handful of parents about six months to complete. Westfield was one of about a dozen school marching bands accepted out of the 125 acts that applied. The application included results and judges’ comments from the band’s past 10 competitions, recommendation letters (including one from the governor), Panoff’s resume, photos of instruments and student uniforms, a two-minute video of students marching a field show and more.
Westfield students found out they had gained acceptance to the parade during a football halftime show Sept. 28, 2012. Since then, the band has been in full-fundraising and practicing mode.
Rising freshman began running marching drills for the competition in April, when they were still eighth-graders. These students would train about once a week, Panoff said.
“We came in June,” Park said. “That’s like two months before everyone else started [summer band camp]… The Rose Bowl Parade is like six miles of marching. So we’re planning on marching two to three miles at the end of August, then one more in late October, and then keep adding on to build up our stamina and strength.”
For senior and band president Ally Engelbrecht, 16, a baritone player, the Rose Bowl marks the culmination of the high school experience.
“It’s changed the experience dramatically. Everyone is much more determined and focused because we know we have a lot more to accomplish [before the parade],” she said. “The exciting thing will be going to California and being that little band from Virginia in the parade.”
Senior and fellow baritone player Chandler Comer, 17, has written one of the pieces of music the band will march to during the parade.
“It’s very upbeat. It’s kind of funky Latin,” he said. “It think [the parade] is great for our band program because it shows off all our talent. But for me, it’s a big moment… my piece will be played on TV. A lot of people will hear it.”
In May, Westfield’s band appeared on morning and midday news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC. These were big moments for students, but the parade itself is expected to draw an international television audience of 100 million in 220 countries.
“The county, everyone knows we’re going to the Rose Bowl. So there’s a lot of expectations on us,” Falatko said. “It’s the parade to go to. It’s the highest honor for a marching band.”