Maui High band performs in Tournament of Roses Parade

Half-awake and hands numb, Maui High School Saber Marching Band members pushed through frigid 33-degree temperatures Thursday to become the Valley Isle’s first marching band to perform in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

The 135-member band and color guard logged over 1,000 hours of practice and helped raise more than $300,000 on its journey to play at the 126-year-old event on New Year’s Day.

Upon playing their final note, band members leaped into the air and screamed in celebration.

“We were all just yelling and smiling, and telling everyone, ‘We made it, we made it,'” sophomore color guard member Courtney Cadiz said by phone Thursday. “It was really cool. On the ride back on the bus, everyone crashed and fell asleep. I had a hard time waking up and getting out of the bus to go to the hotel. I was exhausted.”

The Rose Parade capped a hectic three days for the band that performed Tuesday at Pasadena City College and Wednesday at Disneyland Resort. Members had to wake up at 2:30 a.m. to prepare for Thursday’s parade, causing many to get little sleep due to nerves and fireworks.

“Our bedtime was supposed to be 6:30 p.m., but because we were so nervous we couldn’t sleep,” senior mellophone player Kylie Barut said. “I was so anxious about what would happen and what would go down . . . especially with the weather. I didn’t sleep until 10:30 p.m. I had maybe four hours of sleep.”

Temperatures dipped below 40 degrees once band members left their hotel a little before 5 a.m. However, as they pulled into the staging area, the temperature had dropped to 33 – one degree short of the coldest Rose Parade on record, set in 1952, parade officials said.

Blankets were given to the band’s color guard and hula dancers.

“I would say they were more cold than nervous,” band director Kerry Wasano said of his students.

Cadiz, who wore a bright purple, strapless outfit, twirled two flags during the parade and said that she “wasn’t focused on the crowd, but surviving the cold.”

“I was very nervous about dropping the flag because my hands were numb,” she said. “I kept holding on tightly so it wouldn’t fall. I’m happy I didn’t drop it.”

Barut said she, too, was freezing. She had packed summer clothes because she was told by participants from last year’s parade that it was hot.

“It was really cold, but once we got lined up the adrenaline kicked in,” she said. “By the time we took our first step, I kind of freaked out a little bit, but because we were on national television I had to tell myself to relax a little bit.”

Maui High was the fourth entry in the Rose Parade, following a Go For Broke float in honor of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, Hawaii Pa’u riders of Waimanalo and Tournament of Roses President Richard Chinen, who was raised on Oahu.

“A lot of it was his (Chinen) doing that we were able to make the big Hawaii unit together,” Wasano said. “It was at his request that got us here and he’s rallied and advocated for our program. He’s been really supportive.”

The parade was the band’s toughest challenge on the biggest stage, with band members marching 5.5 miles and playing for about two hours. The band played a medley of three songs, with members wearing bright lei and doing a few hula moves that wowed television hosts.

While the band “started strong with all the adrenaline,” Wasano said, “they were pretty much dead” by the end, especially the drum section which had played practically the entire parade.

“They all let out a huge scream at the end,” he said. “They were really, really happy they reached the end.”

Most members caught up on sleep after the parade, but woke up Thursday afternoon to watch themselves on national television. They called friends and family at home on Maui to ask if they saw them.

“I’m in shock right now. We were actually on national television,” Barut said. “I could see myself. I say I looked pretty good.”

Barut, who has been in the band her entire high school career, has juggled band practice and part-time work at Kahului Airport since the school found out the band would play in the parade, back in November 2013.

“It was kind of hard because I had to go to band practice and I couldn’t even go home. I would just change and go to work,” she said. “I tried my best to earn as much money as I could to help out my parents.”

Wasano said that he was proud of the students’ dedication in practicing over the past year, and thanked their parents and the Maui High Band Booster Club for supporting the program. He said that the band members will get to enjoy Disneyland and California Adventure all day today to celebrate.

“It was a huge undertaking, number one, and it validates all the hard work everybody has put in,” he said. “All the work was worth it.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.