Belpre’s music educator parading in the Tournament of Roses parade


PARKERSBURG, Virginia (AP) – Walking in the Tournament of Roses Parade is an experience that a Belpre music teacher will cherish for a long time to come.

Robin White, a music teacher at Belpre Elementary and deputy conductor for schools in the town of Belpre, was part of a marching band made up of 275 conductors who marched in the Tournament of Roses parade on the day of the New Years Eve in Pasadena, California.

“I walked the 5 1/2 miles of the parade without collapsing,” White said with a laugh.

The Band Director’s Marching Band was created with the Saluting America’s Band Directors Project through the Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation, based in Pickerington, Ohio. The entry of the group was a combination of marching band and float with the theme “We teach music, we teach life”.

“It was truly a celebration of the importance of music education in our schools,” White said. “It was something that resonated with a lot of us.”

White heard about the group through a Facebook ad he saw in 2019 and signed up to participate. He was selected with the intention of participating in the 2021 parade last year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled those plans, but organizers worked to ensure they would participate in the 2022 parade.

“I think it was a good thing where they were able to get more people into it and give everyone more time to prepare,” White said.

The group had representatives from all 50 states and Mexico. They performed three rotating songs throughout the parade, an original arrangement of “Seventy-Six Trombones”, “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Strike Up the Band”.

White told organizers he could play the trombone or baritone and was chosen to play the trombone in the parade. He has been playing the trombone since he was in fifth grade in Meigs County. He used the same instrument he had had since attending Eastern High School.

Participants were given music and other materials and were encouraged to practice and prepare physically for the parade.

“I really challenged myself to get my playing skills in order,” he said. “Being able to practice and do that was really fun. “

White said he wasn’t able to physically train as much as he would have liked, but believed the excitement and adrenaline of being there carried him through.

He flew to California on December 28 and began rehearsals the next day. At the time, the area was experiencing unusual rainfall and one of the first rehearsals, including the march, took place in the hotel ballroom.

“The band had an amazing sound from the start,” White said, giving a special nod to the great sounding percussion and tuba sections.

The next day, they were able to train at a nearby high school, only to be successful outside.

During the parade, they maneuvered when they got to the TV corner where the group split up and the float mounted between them. White said they really practiced to make sure they were doing things right.

“This moment was the thing we practiced the most,” he said. “(When they did it in the parade) the crowd completely erupted and went mad.

“It was something they weren’t really expecting. It was so much fun. “

White said there was a little problem with his execution. The group won the Showmanship Award in a previous judgment and they ended up with a banner in front of them to recognize it. No one told the banner carriers and the timing shifted slightly but no one noticed.

The parade itself seemed to go pretty quickly, but he attributes that to the excitement and tremendous reception they received from the crowds throughout the parade when people realized they were a marching band. composed of conductors.

White believes this is the first time that a marching band like this has assembled for such an event.

He had the chance to speak to many group directors from across the country to see what their group programs were like. A number came from smaller school districts like Belpre.

“It was important to have that experience and to be able to take it back to the kids,” White said, adding that he wanted to show them that it was possible to do these things and that they had to take the risk of doing things that they could do. ‘they couldn’t. otherwise do.

Ohio had a huge representation in the group.

White carried photos of his family, items depicting the Belpre Band program and a bandana scarf that belonged to his father, Bob White. Her father passed away in November and was a musician and supported music programs in school.

White’s sister, Bobbie Conklin of Morgantown, was one of those selected to carry a number of banners with the group.

Their father knew they were going to be in the parade, but he died before he could see it. They did this, in part, to honor him for their own love of music as well.

The organizers made sure that this group did not take the place of any other group that they were able to accomplish by being a combined entry. No other school group was eliminated because they were there, White said.

Once the group passed TV Corner, they were encouraged to take pictures. White made a Facebook Live post of the parade and more.

Members of the group were also able to purchase flowers which were placed on the float. White purchased flowers in honor of his parents, his own children, and the Belpre Group program.

All of the band members received an embroidered crest and an engraved special director’s bat from the Dan Fogelberg Foundation.

Band members and groups associated with school music programs have posted clips of their performance online, many of which have gone viral.

“We have received a lot of great feedback and the recognition continues to come,” White said.

He has kept in touch with the rest of the group and his list of friends on Facebook is growing. A number of dignitaries mounted the float, including composer James Swearingen of Columbus, Ohio. He and White were on the same flight home and had lunch together at the airport and had a chat.

Parade organizers and others have talked about doing something like this in the future at future Tournament of Roses parades and other events.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” White said.

He said he will remember the sound quality of the band and the applause from the crowd when they performed.

“It was a great sound that you dream of playing with,” White said.

In addition to the parade, they performed at BandFest which was for the groups in the parade and at a separate judging event where the different entries were judged.

White praised the parade’s organizers for making it go as well as it did.

The whole experience again underlined for him the importance of music in schools and music in people’s lives. White has taught at Belpre for 20 years, the last eight as a music teacher.

He tries to expose his students to a wide variety of music.

“Music is important to students because it accompanies them throughout their lives,” White said. “I want my students to understand and appreciate music on a personal level so that it touches their hearts when they need it most.

“Music is really life”.


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