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Marching band racks up another national parade performance

First Macy’s Thanksgiving, now Tournament of Roses

Rockford — The Rockford High School marching band has earned a spot in the 2023 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

Director Brian Phillips surprised students and parents with the news Wednesday evening under the lights at Carlson-Munger Stadium. The marching band was there to perform a final community show before leaving to compete in the Bands of America Grand National Championship in Indianapolis this weekend. 

“We are beyond excited for this opportunity,” Phillips said. “And it’s incredibly important to acknowledge why we have this opportunity — it’s all due to our current students. You guys have worked hard, and you’ve not given up, whether in a tough show or tough circumstances. … We are extraordinarily proud of you.”

’This really is a perfect reward for all of that hard work.’

— junior Reagan Zainea

For more than a century, the Rose Parade has been a part of New Year’s Day festivities in California. Featuring flower-covered floats and marching bands, the 5.5-mile parade route is broadcast around the world and has become an annual holiday viewing tradition for millions of people. 

The RHS marching band will take part in the 134th annual Rose Parade, scheduled for January 1, 2023. 

Band director Brian Phillips surprises the band members and audience with the news that the marching band will be part of the annual Rose Parade

Hard Work, Strenuous Application 

Phillips went through what he described as a “lengthy and strenuous” application process this past spring, and learned of the group’s selection in the second week of October. Since then, he’s been keeping the news a secret from band members, parents and even Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler.

“There had been some rumors, but I didn’t have any expectations, so this is just crazy,” said junior and drum major Reagan Zainea. “It feels amazing. We’ve accomplished so much over the past couple years. … This really is a perfect reward for all of that hard work.”

Part of the percussion section and color guard perform for the crowd Wednesday evening

Reagan, who joined the marching band her freshman year, says it’s “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had” and is excited that she’ll be able to close out her senior year by performing on a national stage.

“It’s going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of extra work to prepare, but we’re going to push through and do our best for it,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud of everyone involved in the program and I’m just so thankful to be part of it.” 

The invitation to participate in the parade is yet another point of pride for the four-time state champions. Four years ago, in 2017, the band marched in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. 

“Honestly, I’m not sure what else you can do with the marching band to top that,” Phillips said. “They’re the two pinnacles of our art, and we’ve been invited to both. It’s beyond-words exciting.”

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

The Rockford High School marching band performs their piece, “Savage Beauty” at Carlson-Munger Stadium Wednesday evening
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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is a reporter and copy editor, covering Rockford, Lowell, Grandville and Cedar Springs. She is an award-winning journalist who got her start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate, she later returned to her alma mater to help manage its national writing festival and edit and write for enrollment communications. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press, Fox 17 and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio

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