BEYOND THE NEWS // USC band on the march again // Ex-member remembers his first parade well
By TIMOTHY MANGAN, The Orange County Register
Published:  1/1/2004

I remember rolling out of bed at some ungodly pre-dawn hour, made all the worse because of the New Year’s Eve party the night before.

No, I didn’t have a paper route. I was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band, about to march in my first Tournament of Roses Parade. As a trombonist, I would even be in the front row. This would have been, well, gee whiz, 25 years ago.

We band members had given up part of our Christmas vacation to return to campus for our halftime show practices. Now, bleary-eyed, we donned our marching duds, complete with gold spats and plastic Trojan helmet, and met the idling buses near the band room. They whisked us off to a sit-down breakfast at a local eatery, compliments of some alumni committee.

Next thing I remember was the cold, waiting on a Pasadena side street amid diesel fumes and horse droppings. The band’s turn came, finally, and soon we made a turn. We hadn’t practiced that — indeed, we hadn’t practiced anything for the parade — and it looked a mess. But the TV cameras were ahead, the drums rolled and, in the words of our long-suffering director, Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, we “sold it.” That is, we blared one or another of our fight songs — I think it was the noble “Tribute to Troy” — as if lives were at stake, some 45 trombones and 60 trumpets and big brass sousaphones that could knock you out of your seat.

We did our lockstep thing, a stride that looks like that of a trotting horse, knee up and calf out, a split-second pause, then other knee up and calf out and pause. You try playing a trombone while doing that.

A few blocks later, and it was all over. Oh, we still had five miles to go, but with cameras behind us and halftime show ahead, we were saving ourselves, not even bothering to march in step, and rarely playing. If you were there, I apologize.