BY DAVID JAMES HEISS
The roster of this year’s — technically next year’s — elite was posted online.
Those listed would be expected to start practicing with more than 50 other musicians as part of the honor band for the 133rd Rose Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, 2022.
America Garcia, a senior at Banning High School, held her breath as she scrolled through it and found her name.
She triple-checked to make sure that was her name, and hours later, a follow-up e-mail to her confirmed that she would be playing alto sax alongside 41 other band members, seven section leaders and two drum majors.
It has been an elongated moment of pride, and a capstone to a musical career that started for her in fifth-grade, when her family started renting instruments for her.
Her parents gifted America her own alto sax her freshman year in high school.
“I want to thank Mr. Ronquillo for pushing me to do this,” says Garcia, referring to high school band director Roberto Ronquillo, who himself performed tenor saxophone in the 118th Tournament of Roses Parade with the Tournament of Roses Honor Band his senior year at Kaiser High School in Fontana in 2007.
Garcia applied online and was invited to audition in person at Pasadena City College, an experience she calls “nerve-wracking.”
“We got there really early. They had me try on a marching uniform to size me up, so I had something to look forward to; we warmed up for awhile, then had a five-minute audition,” she says.
According to Garcia, Ronquillo “kept me going sometimes” when she did not feel as motivated.
Ronquillo says “Miss. Garcia is too modest. This is the Tournament of Roses Honor Band — the best musicians of Southern California perform,” and this year will be the band’s 96th year of being part of the prestigious parade.
“I met America her freshman year, which was my first year as band director,” Ronquillo says. “A senior who was first chair, America outplayed that first chair, and she’s been section leader ever since. I’m extremely proud of her, and hope she continues playing alto sax” after high school.
Garcia hopes to study landscape architecture, and has applied to the University of New Mexico, California State Polytechnic University, Chico State University and Concordia University.
The high school’s community pitched in when it learned that Garcia’s family was struggling to pay for gas to get back and forth to Pasadena for her practices, which are becoming more frequent, as the parade is a month away.
Community members who wish to contribute are advised to offer gas cards and leave them with band director Ronquillo, or counselor Janelle Poulter at the high school.
“The first time we collected money and presented it to her to help her, she was in tears,” Poulter says.
The Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band & Herald Trumpets has been part of the Rose Parade since 1930, and attract nearly 500 prospects to audition each year. The band marches ahead of the Royal Court, announcing the arrival of the 103rd Rose Queen, this year led by Queen Nadia Chung of La Canada High School, who will be accompanied by six others.
All floats participating in the parade must be covered entirely with flowers or other natural materials such as seeds, leaves or bark.
This year’s grand marshal will be actor and children’s literacy advocate LeVar Burton.
The parade begins at 8 a.m. Jan. 1, 2022, and should be broadcast by ABC, NBC, KTLA, Univision and the Hallmark Channel, among others, and will be streamed live on their individual websites.
“It’s going to be neat meeting different people from different musical backgrounds. I’m sure this is going to be an exciting experience — I hope I have fun,” Garcia says.