Two Santa Monica High School seniors to perform in the Rose Parade
By Michele Robinson and Sandra Chin
On New Year’s Day, the prestigious Herald Trumpets will announce the arrival of the Rose Queen and her Court in the 133rd Rose Parade. This select group, composed of nine trumpeters and one snare drummer, precedes the Queens’ float and is one of the most recognized musical groups in the parade.
The Herald Trumpets are part of the Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band, which will celebrate its 100th year in 2024. Since 1930, this band has participated in every Rose Parade and became their honor band in the 1970s, second only to the Salvation Army Band.
Band leaders Kyle Luck and Kevin Brown have a long history of working together at Pasadena City College.
“It’s been a real pleasure being the director here, especially with Kevin,” Luck said.
Luck is serving his 16th year as the band director doing his “dream gig” since 2006. He was a student and band member playing percussion at PCC in the mid-1980s.
Brown has been the director of the Herald Trumpets for the past 39 years since 1984. Writing original music, Brown composes about 15 new fanfare scores and two longer pieces every year.
“He writes new fanfare every year, so those students who are returning get a new experience,” Luck said.
“The music is unique and always interesting,” added Ian DiMundo, a current and returning Herald Trumpeter.
To be a Herald Trumpeter, musicians need to go through a rigorous live audition process and must display distinct strengths in both solo and ensemble pieces.
“There are certain types of qualities in a player that we are looking for including sound, tone, articulation, precision, and blending well together,” Luck said.
To compete for a coveted spot in the Honor Band, auditions are open to current Lancer Band members (students at PCC) and high school students from all over Southern California. Students are also expected to maintain good academic standing and those selected earn free college credit.
“I advertise to about 300 schools in Southern California,” Luck said. “Students are pulled from various counties including Ventura, Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita and Santa Monica.”
Those with the highest scores from the audition pool are accepted.
“This year the quality is very strong and all of the Heralds are high school students,” Luck said.
This year, there are 174 Honor Band members and 10 in the Herald Trumpets for a total of 184 members. For the trumpeters in particular, 60 auditioned and 33 were selected. From there, 24 made it to the Honor Band and only the top nine made it to the Heralds.
“I thought the audition process was very stressful because only nine trumpeters were selected, I pushed myself hard to get in,” said Jaden Robinson, a current Herald Trumpeter.
Hard work is what it takes to get in and stay in. Those selected are expected to practice a lot, including giving up their free time during winter break.
“The rehearsals are intense,” Robinson said. “We have to memorize every song, a little at a time, five songs per week, 19 songs in all. And then we practice five hours a day straight, marching in a parking lot. Each rehearsal is tiring but worth it.”
Endurance is needed to play a musical instrument and march five and a half miles down Colorado Boulevard. In order to do this with ease, they will complete about 25 miles of practice beforehand. The students are loaded onto buses and taken to Santa Anita and Dodger Stadium to march, which is twice the distance as the parade.
“The parade will feel easy to the students with the conditioning,” Luck said. “We want them to feel confidence and excitement. The goal is to get to the end of the Rose Parade and enjoy the experience. They will smile and feel like they have accomplished something special, because they have.”
Other opportunities that the students will enjoy include participating at Bandfest and going to Disneyland. Bandfest is an annual tradition that includes performance showcases from all of the Rose Parade marching bands. It is open to the public and takes place in Robinson Stadium at PCC from Dec. 29 through 31.
“Bandfest is unique because each group gets 10 to 20 minutes to showcase their talent,” DiMundo said. “It can be a high school field show, college halftime show or an international performance using different instruments. If you are into bands, this is the thing to go to.”
Prior to that, the students will perform at Disneyland so they can simulate what it feels like to perform in front of a live crowd.
“It’s their first dress rehearsal and first performance with a live audience,” Luck said. “In two months, those that never played together are in the biggest parade. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and they will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
Two local Herald Trumpeters
Robinson and DiMundo will be hobnobbing with royalty, even without leaving their hometown come Jan. 1. The two Santa Monica High School seniors will be performing in the 2022 Tournament of Roses Parade and will precede the Tournament of Roses Queen and her Royal Court.
The two seniors represent the best of the best, both having secured coveted trumpet positions on the Herald Trumpets team. This will be DiMundo’s second time performing at the Tournament of Roses Parade, while it’s the first for Robinson.
The fact that not one but two students from Santa Monica High School were chosen as two of nine trumpeters for the Herald Trumpets speaks volumes about the school’s music program, as well as the dedication of the students themselves.
DiMundo performed with the Herald Trumpets two years ago at the 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade.
“It was indescribable, there’s a moment when you round the corner and make that turn and you see a mile of cameras and grandstands,” DiMundo said. “It’s a flood of energy that hits you.”
Both teens set their sights on the Herald Trumpets even after hopes were temporarily dampened after the 2021 Tournament of Roses Parade was canceled due to the pandemic. They never lost a beat, balancing academics, volunteering and extracurricular activities in addition to trumpet practice and performances.
Robinson is enrolled in AP and college-level courses and is earning a Certificate of Achievement in Cloud Computing from Santa Monica College. DiMundo participates in the creative writing program at Santa Monica High School.
Robinson and DiMundo are involved in an impressive array of extracurricular music activities including the Santa Monica High School Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, and the Viking Marching Band.
Robinson was also a member of the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, as well as the Colburn Youth Orchestra (which made an appearance in the Hulu miniseries “Little Fires Everywhere.”) Most recently, Robinson was selected to perform at the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City as one of 300 performers.
“It felt surreal,” Robinson said.
DiMundo is a member of Santa Monica High School’s varsity boys golf team. In addition, he volunteers biweekly with “Give a Life,’’ an organization that connects musicians with children and their families worldwide who are in need of medical life-saving treatments. Through “Give a Life,” DiMundo and fellow musicians raise funds through performance for two young boys in India who are immune-compromised and in need of medical care.
DiMundo is also committed to volunteering biweekly with kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica by mentoring kids and honing their musical skills. What Robinson and DiMundo are modest to mention is the time commitment, discipline, and adaptability needed to perform at high caliber.
“It takes up most of the break, but the experience of performing in the Rose Parade is keeping me going through the long rehearsals,” DiMundo said. “In a few days it will be Jan. 1, and it will all be worth it.”
Due to COVID-19, they are required to wear adaptive masks, test frequently, and maintain safe distances between themselves and fellow trumpeters.
“The adaptive masks are a challenge as the Herald Trumpets still need to produce the same quality sound and performance even with the adaptive devices,” DiMundo said.
Robinson and DiMundo are slated to perform at two pre-Rose Parade practice venues – BandFest and Disneyland. BandFest essentially “allows ensembles to showcase their true potential versus the few seconds you see them marching by on TV for the Rose Parade,” DiMundo said.
“I’ve been going ever since I was a kid (to watch it). I really enjoy it.”
Performing at Disneyland was a great highlight for DiMundo.
“It was like a burst of excitement, huge crowds of people lined up along Main Street,” DiMundo said. “It’s a lot of adrenaline mixed with the nostalgia of being there now, as well as being there as a kid.”
DiMundo hails from a family of musicians. His aunt played the trumpet and his sister is a trombonist and preceded him in performing for the Rose Parade’s Honor Band. His family members are all huge supporters of the musicianship and performing in the Rose Parade.
“My family will (literally) be sleeping along the parade route to cheer me on,” DiMundo said. “My family is very happy and wants to show it by being right up front along the parade route.”
Robinson started playing the trumpet in the second grade because of his dad and his family has taken him to see the Rose Parade annually since he was in the fourth grade.
“I thought it would be cool to play the same instrument my dad did,” Robinson said. “Seeing the Herald Trumpets perform every year really inspired me. It was something I knew I wanted to do,” Robinson said.
Even with such a demanding schedule, Robinson and DiMundo haven’t skipped a beat and are anticipating Jan. 1.
“The Rose Parade will be a really cool experience,” Robinson said.
DiMundo added, “The Rose Parade (experience) is outstanding. This is definitely something I will remember for the rest of my whole life.”
If what has been seen so far from Robinson and DiMundo is any indication, there will be much more to come from these accomplished young men. And come Jan. 1 along the Rose Parade route, Robinson and DiMundo along with their fellow Herald Trumpets will give everyone a glimpse of what dreaming, believing and achieving is all about.
Watch the Rose Parade live coverage without commercials on KTLA, (Channel 5) starting at 8 to 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day. ABC and NBC show it with commercials or on the Bandcam without commentary. The PCC Honor Band is Unit 19 and the Heralds are Unit 26, watch for them around 8:30 a.m.”
For more information about Bandfest:
For more information about the Honor Band Auditions: