Performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people during the Rose Parade was no problem for two Catalina Foothills High School Falcon Band members. They leaned on their experience at Tucson Youth Music to calm their nerves.
Junior Liah Chavez Hernandez and senior Tyler Kebo performed in the Jan. 2 parade along a route that ran more than five miles. The physical toll was a bit rough – Tyler had to carry his 40-pound drum during the march. But playing for a crowd was second nature.
“Performance anxiety used to be a big thing for me,” said Liah, who plays the flute and is part of the TYM program. “I would get so nervous when we had concerts and recitals. (Being part of TYM) helped me get over that barrier. The more times you perform, the more desensitized you get. It helped during the Rose Parade.”
Tyler, who was part of the TYM marimba group 10 years ago, didn’t know what to expect when Catalina Foothills was invited to the parade. Bands from across the country and world take part every year.
“I knew nothing about the parade,” he said. “I knew about the football game. I knew there was a parade but didn’t realize what a big deal it was to participate in it.”
That became apparent from the time the band arrived in California. Bands from across the country and world were there, giving the Catalina Foothills High team opportunities to talk with peers from all over.
“They were all really nice and happy to be there,” Liah said. “We exchanged pins. I ended up getting ones from Mexico, Japan and Taiwan.”
The Foothills band spent several weeks preparing for the event, including an opportunity to march in the Fiesta Bowl Parade. The Tempe route was 2.7 miles, half the distance of the Rose Bowl Parade. Tyler said, in many ways, the Arizona parade was a different world.
“The experience was totally different,” he said. “There weren’t many grandstands there. It was not even comparable.”
Band members stayed busy after arriving in California. Along with visits to Disneyland and Universal Studios, they had the chance to see floats being built. Rose Parade rules are strict: Every inch of every float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark. The most delicate flowers, including roses, are placed in individual vials of water then set into the float.
“I was surprised by how much work went into the floats,” Liah said. “They were putting flowers in one by one.”
Tyler knows a lot about teamwork. He said the Rose Parade experience was made easier by the fact that he was marching with classmates. Tyler and his fellow percussionists spend a lot of time away from school together. His appreciation for working together started at TYM with his youth group.
“It was my first time playing in a group setting, which opened me up to listening to others around me and learning how to play inside an ensemble,” Tyler said.
Liah wants to attend music school at the University of Arizona and Tyler plans to either major in music in college or try out for the Marines Musician Enrollment Program. They are both in step about the importance of music.
“Music should always be part of your life,” Liah said. “It’s always there.”