NCCU’s Marching Sound Machine Draws a Prime Slot for the Rose Parade

N.C. Central University’s marching band has made a strong impression in just three days in Southern California.

At Disneyland on Wednesday and at Thursday’s Bandfest – a showcase at Pasadena City College of all the bands scheduled to march in today’s Rose Parade – the band was placed in the climactic final slot in the schedule.

And for the band’s performance today before its largest audience ever, Tournament of Roses officials have selected the Marching Sound Machine to provide the finale for the 122nd Rose Parade.  The band members will step off in 67th position as the last “showcase band” in the parade.  The parade starts at 11 a.m. eastern time (8 a.m. in California), so the band will be passing the TV cameras during the third hour of the nationwide parade broadcast – between 1 and 2 p.m. eastern time.

Members of the band say it is their unconventional routines that set them apart from other bands. At the Bandfest, their performance to music by Michael Jackson, and dance routines that audience members compared to Jackson’s video performances, had the crowd stamping the metal bleachers in appreciation.

Roy Ector II, the head drum major, explained the finer points of their routine. The plan for Bandfest, he said, was actually just two days old.  Director Jorim Reid rearranges the well-rehearsed drills to keep each major performance fresh.  This means that band members must quickly memorize the new order.

“I think about what’s next all the time,” said Ector.  “You’re focusing on the destination, the spot.”

The band members perform their intricately choreographed movements by knowing exactly where they need to end up on a memorized chart of a football field, and exactly how many steps it takes to reach their marks.

The Bandfest weather late Thursday was unusually chilly for Southern California – barely in the 50s with a stiff breeze, presenting a challenge to the musicians as they struggled to keep their instruments warm.  “When the instruments get cold, it changes the sound,” said Ector.  The musicians were constantly blowing warm air into their wind instruments to ensure consistent pitch.  And the forecast for today’s parade is much the same.

The band spent most of Friday about 20 miles from Pasadena in Pomona – rehearsing “until it’s perfect,” said Reid, the band director. Reid was pleased with the band’s scheduled slot toward the end of the parade. The TV audience