"Hey, y'all I'm in California," shouted Thomas (Cato) Hamilton, a Cardozo High School band member aboard a bus heading for the band's first California performance at Pasadena City College today.
For the 160 members of Washington, D.C.'s high-stepping band, their Rose Bowl Parade dream has begun to unfold in a succession of experiences like the film moving through their Instamatic cameras. Before their six-day journey is over, they will perform in the Tournament of Roses band festival filmed by NBC network television, experience campus life at the University of California. Los Angeles, tour Universal Studios, perform at Disneyland and march in the 92nd Tournament of Roses parade, the highlight of the trip.
(The 2 1/2-hour Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day will be televised by all three network stations in Washington, starting at 11:30 a.m. Parade officials say the Cardozo band will march by the cameras about half way through the parade and will be visible for about one minute.)
Piccolo player Brenda Lyles, 17, paced nervously at Baltimore Washington International Airport late yesterday just before the band members enplaned for California and said she was shaking. Band member Robin McMillan cradled her teddy bear for good luck as Susan Tompkins fingered a bright red rose she had bought at the airport to press into a book of memories. All three said they were worried and frightened about their first plane trip, the first not only for them but for 95 percent of the band members. Said Tompkins, "I just hope it's fast and quick." As World Airways DC10 lifted off the ground, flag twirler Antoinette Stewart, 18, was in tears.
Four hours and 35 minutes later and nearly 3,000 miles from home, the travel-weary musicians arrived at brightly lit Los Angeles International Airport. They descended the plane's silver-colored steps to the apron where they were welcomed by a flash of lights from television cameras, a drum roll and the high stepping march of majorettes from John Muir High School in Pasadena.
Monday night's arrival at Sproul dormitory on the UCLA campus was marked by long lines of weary travelers scrambling for room assignments. It was 3 a.m. Washington time, but only midnight Los Angeles time, and the flight fatigue had taken its toll on band members who sat on the dormitory ledges and windowsills lifeless like the baggage strewn about them. Band director Robert Gill barked instructions for everyone to bed down for what was left of the night, but teen-age girls in hair curlers and face cream giggled, sharing secrets and what Lynda Jones called "girl talk." The guys pounded on doors seeking girlfriends and buddies while others practiced scales in their rooms. Wakeup came at 5:45 a.m., about four hours later, and band members rushed through the halls in a scramble for the bathrooms.
"Did you see this gorgeous sunrise?" said Alethia Raycrow, 17, a 12th grade baton twirler from Shaw in Northwest Washington. "I've never seen pine trees so big. This weather is so wonderful. I ain't ever seen anything this nice even in the movies."
Raycrow, dressed in a striped T-shirt and white shorts and wearing a row of curls around her head, joined other sleepy-eyed band members waiting in yet another line to breakfast on California grapefruit, pancakes, sausages and scrambled eggs. Outside the dorm, a gentle breeze swayed the eucalyptus, banana-palm and pine trees. Elephant ear philodendron grew thickly around the corners of the building -- surroundings that many of these children of Washington's inner city have never seen.
As the day progressed, performance pressure began to build on the band members. Gill told them there was still much they had to do. "We don't have a lot of time and we need to practice at least 14 or 15 times," he said.
As they practiced their routines, clarinet player Frances Hall, 16, grimaced when some of the band members were not marching in a straight line, even though, as she said, "We've been practicing this for a couple of months."
For the students, many from single-parent and low-income households, the parade is a matter of pride, pride that will be shown in the exaggerated marching steps and the grins on their faces.
Cardozo's marching band is the only predominantly black band in the parade and the only band from the East Coast.
Parade officials said that the band was chosen for its aggressive and entertaining marching style. It is as distinctive from other high school bands in this parade as Philadelphia's mummers marching band is from the Salvation Army band. On the Pasadena City College stadium grounds today, other high school bands performed in a style similar to that of military regiments: one ankle goes up and down in line with the other leg in a slow step and glide motion. But when Cardozo takes the field, its members prance forward in exaggerated steps, one ankle out in front of the other, leg toes pointed down and knees brought waist high.