A Taste of Japan

Toho High School Dragon Band Welcomes Tournament of Roses® President and First Lady with Sights, Sounds and Delicious Cuisine

Last month, Tournament of Roses 2016 President Mike Matthiessen and First Lady Ann traveled to Japan to welcome the Toho High School Dragon Band to the 2016 Rose Parade®. Check out Ann’s recollection of their Japanese adventure below:

“Our trip to Japan was a whirlwind of activities and unforgettable moments! In between sightseeing and spending time with the Toho High School Wind Ensemble, we enjoyed a variety of delicious Japanese cuisine (including eel) under the guidance of our host Mr. Kumagai, the Executive Director of the Green Band (and well-known food blogger). But as always, our favorite part of any band trip, is visiting the band and meeting the students.


We visited many Japanese temples, shrines, and castles in the cities of Nara, Kyoto, and Nagoya. My personal favorite was the beautiful Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) in Kyoto.

The members of the Toho High School Wind Ensemble delighted us with a performance at their high school in Nagoya.  Following their performance, Mike presented the Tournament of Roses flag while their proud parents looked on. Just when we thought the performances were over, we discovered that they had a big surprise in store for us – an original song written just for their trip to Pasadena!


Mike and I were very moved by the beautiful lyrics of the song called “In the Name of Love.”  Following the performance, we greeted students and parents in the cafeteria while signing 2016 Rose Parade posters.  Throughout the trip many pictures were taken, memories made and new friendships formed.  Arigato (thank you), Toho High School, for an amazing adventure.


While serious and focused throughout their performance, members of the Toho High School Dragon Band were all smiles while getting their posters signed by President Matthiessen.

While serious and focused throughout their performance, members of the Toho High School Dragon Band were all smiles while getting their posters signed by President Matthiessen.

With only six months until America’s New Year Celebration®, Mike and Ann will spend the summer visiting participating marching bands in the 2016 Rose Parade. Which Adventure is next for the president and first lady? Stay tuned to find out!

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The Lone Star’s Dragon Band returns after three decades

This December, 330 dragons will fly into Pasadena, California from Round Rock, Texas to perform in the 126th Rose Parade. While these may not be mythical creatures – Round Rock High School’s Dragon Band promises to leave an equally lasting impression on parade audiences.

Returning to Colorado Boulevard for the first time in 30 years since the band’s first appearance in 1984, the Dragon Band recently welcomed Tournament of Roses President Richard L. Chinen and his wife, Kim, to share their excitement and preparations for their trip to Pasadena.

“Being a part of the Rose Parade gives the students an opportunity to represent themselves, their school and our city in an incredible way that they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives,” said Band Director David Mobley.

“The history of the parade, its tradition and pageantry really give the event deeper meaning for us and for all participants. You get the sense that you’re taking part in history.”

Katie Frock

Drum Major Katie Frock sleeps with her roses on the trip home after receiving them at the Bands of America Grand National Championship – where the Dragon Band was notified of its selection for the 126th Rose Parade. Photo courtesy of Jim Machajewski

Extending true Southern hospitality to the Tournament’s president and first lady, Dragon Band parents and community members kept the Chinens busy with concerts and the band’s Boots & BBQ fundraiser, where President Chinen presented Mobley with the official Tournament flag.

“A band’s participation in the Rose Parade doesn’t just affect its members and their families – but an entire community,” said Chinen. “Kim and I experience the excitement and pride each band’s participation brings from the community’s point of view.”

The Dragon Band is one of two bands from Texas selected to perform in the 126th Rose Parade. Can’t wait until January 1 to see and hear them? Watch their performance at the 2013 Westlake Marching Festival and tell us what you think!

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How far would you travel for the 2015 Rose Parade?

Helsingor Pipegarde Girls Marching Band Answers with More Than 5,500 Miles

The people of Denmark – the world’s happiest country in the world (according to the 2013 World Happiness Report) – rejoiced earlier this month when 2015 Tournament of Roses President, Richard L. Chinen, traveled 5,500 miles to announce that the Helsingor Pigegarde Girls Marching Band is one of 20 bands participating in the 126th Rose Parade.

While bands spend hours practicing and fundraising in preparation for their trip to Pasadena, President Chinen and his wife, Kim, travel around the world, visiting the bands selected to appear in America’s New Year Celebration.

“Each band visit is so different and unique,” said Chinen. “Kim and I really get a chance to get to know the bands, experience new cultures and hear their stories.”

Last month, the Helsingor Pigegarde Girls Marching Band welcomed the Chinens to the coastal town of Helsingor, Denmark, located just 45 minutes north of Copenhagen.

Dressed in their traditional marching band garb — blue jackets, white skirts, white boots and a blue and white hat with a red pom pom, the band performed for the president and first lady before being presented with an official Tournament of Roses flag.


Helsingor Pigegarde Girls Marching Band is made up of 70 young women ranging from ages 9 to 21.

Helsingor Pigegarde Girls Marching Band is made up of 70 young women ranging from ages 9 to 21.

“Being chosen to perform in the Rose Parade is such an honor,” said Band Director Sanne Bergsaker. “It is an experience that each of the girls – and myself included – will cherish and remember for the rest of their lives.”

Representing a town of approximately 45,000 people and the historic Kronborg Castle – the home of Shakespeare’s Hamlet – the Helsingor Pigegarde Girls Marching Band is the first band from Denmark to march down the famous five-and-a-half mile Rose Parade route.

“Each band brings a different element of entertainment to the parade,” said Chinen. “I can’t wait to see the crowd’s reaction when they see the talent of these young women from Denmark.”

Curious about who you’ll see and hear on Jan. 1? Visit our website for the full list of the 2015 Bands selected to participate in the 126th Rose Parade and tell us who you’re most excited to hear!

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Annual Bands – Part 2

In addition to the Salvation Army Tournament of Roses Band, the Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band and the PCC Herald Trumpets – featured last month in Tournament Times – there are two more bands that are annually part of the Rose Parade.

Each New Year’s Day, the United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band members don their dress blue uniforms and march in perfect step down Colorado Boulevard. The band is made up of three Southern California Marine Bands and while those three bands individually perform over 300 times a year, the Rose Parade is the only event that brings them together as a single performance unit. Each member is fully combat-trained, and many have completed tours of duty in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band

Bandfest allows participating groups to incorporate elements that wouldn’t work at all during the parade, like the U.S. Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band’s recreation of the raising of the American flag at Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The Los Angeles Unified School District All District High School Honor Band will make its 40th Rose Parade appearance on January 1, 2014. Band Director Anthony White, who marched in the band in 1985 as a student, leads the distinctive-sounding group, made up of only brass and percussion instruments accompanied by drum majors, flag bearers and banner carriers. Student musicians from all over the nation’s second-largest school district have to be recommended by their instructors; since the band’s inception, over 12,000 students have participated.

LAUSD All District High School Honor Band

The LAUSD All District High School Honor Band has only brass and percussion musicians.

In addition to pleasing the crowds lining the parade route, the Marine Corps and LAUSD bands perform at one of three Bandfest events each year. At Pasadena City College’s Robinson stadium, Bandfest gives these groups – and all of the year’s marching bands – the chance to show off additional field show skills and incorporate performance elements that would be difficult to showcase while keeping a steady 2.5-mile-per-hour pace. Of course, making that 105-degree turn from Orange Grove Boulevard onto Colorado Boulevard is no easy feat itself!

What is your favorite marching band memory, either from watching the Rose Parade or as a musician yourself?

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Annual bands – Part 1

Among each year’s contingent of Rose Parade marching bands, there are a few that are invited back year after year. For the Salvation Army Tournament of Roses Band, 2014 will mark its 95th year of participation. Now that’s tradition! Wearing signature red jackets and led by some thirty tambourine players, the band uses the Rose Parade to enhance visibility of the Salvation Army’s mission to meet human needs.

The Salvation Army Tournament of Roses Band

The Salvation Army Tournament of Roses Band

Its annual red kettle campaign, started in 1891, helps feed millions of people during the holiday season, reaching people as far away as Korea, Japan and Chile. Coming up in just a couple of weeks is another annual fundraising event: National Donut Day on June 7. The Salvation Army started this program during the Great Depression to commemorate the “donut lassies,” female Salvation Army members who provided writing supplies, stamps, home-cooked meals and – of course – donuts for soldiers on the front lines during World War I.

PCC Tournament of Roses Honor Band

PCC Tournament of Roses Honor Band with Band Director Kyle Luck, front

Though its participation isn’t quite as long-standing as the Salvation Army’s, the Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band is no slouch – it will be making its 85th Rose Parade appearance when New Year’s Day 2014 rolls around. In addition to PCC Lancer Marching Band members, this group includes high school musicians from all over Southern California who audition for the opportunity to be part of a band that consistently impresses the crowds on Colorado Boulevard and couches all over the world.

A subset of the Honor Band, the Herald Trumpets is a super-skilled group of nine trumpet players and a snare drummer bestowed the honor of introducing the Royal Court. The competition for these prestigious positions is especially tough, with more than 80 trumpeters and 50 percussionists under consideration. Sporting white berets and rose-embroidered capes, they perform unique compositions at a variety of events, “heralding” the arrival of the Rose Queen and Princesses at a number of appearance prior to January 1 and then, of course, as the Macy*s float rolls down the parade route with the Royal Court waving to all.

The Herald Trumpets

The Herald Trumpets

What’s your favorite annual Rose Parade tradition?

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