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Pride of the Mountains is California-bound

Nearly 400 members of Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will travel to Pasadena, Calif., to march in the internationally televised 2011 Rose Parade.

The band is scheduled to appear at the 49th position in the parade, which begins at 11 a.m. on Jan. 1.

“The Rose Parade is seen by millions of people from around the world, and the Pride of the Mountains will be serving as marching musical ambassadors for Western Carolina,” said Bob Buckner, director of the WCU Pride of the Mountains Marching Band. “It’s a role we accept as a high honor, and we are ready to take on the challenges — both logistical and financial — of transporting our students, their instruments and other equipment to California.”

Three trucks will carry the band’s instruments, uniforms, equipment and even band member’s luggage to California in order to save about $40,000 in checked baggage fees. Students loaded the trucks Monday, Dec. 20, and will fly to California starting Dec. 28.

At the Tournament of Roses Bandfest on Thursday, Dec. 30, which friends, family and fans can watch online via a webcast available for $8.50, the band will perform its halftime show “Rock U.”

During the Rose Parade, the band will perform the song “You” by California ska band Suburban Legends, a local favorite in Orange County. Matt Henley, assistant director of the WCU marching band, said the music selection came about as he was thinking about the parade’s theme, “Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories,” and remembered a story about Suburban Legends.

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After a member of the group, trombone player Dallas Cook, died in a traffic accident, Suburban Legends held a memorial concert and directed proceeds to Cook’s high school marching band in Huntington Beach, Calif. Cook had credited his experience in high school band for much of his passion for music.

Moved, Henley contacted Suburban Legends about the possibility of playing the group’s song in the parade and building a friendship.

“We love Suburban Legends’ music, and we are excited to play their song ‘You’ in Dallas’ memory and send the message that, like him, we love band too,” said Henley. “We arranged the song for marching band, and that is what we will play on TV as we go around the corner in the parade. Part of our goal was to build a friendship from East Coast to West Coast, and we hope to get the chance to meet members of Suburban Legends while we are there.”

Band members have said they are both excited and nervous to perform in front of so many people. More than 700,000 are expected to attend the parade, and more than 51 million people are expected to watch the internationally televised event on TV.

“I’m actually marching in the Rose Bowl (which will be) watched by a billion people. That is a lot of stress. A lot of eyes would be on me if I fall or trip,” said Candace Rhodes, a freshman music education major from Georgia, in a video she submitted in a WCU video contest, before willing it not to go wrong. “It won’t happen. It won’t happen. It won’t happen.”

When Jeffrey Throop, president of the Tournament of Roses Association, visited WCU’s band in September, he predicted the Pride of the Mountains would be a hit in California.

“I can already tell, you are going to blow everybody away. It’s just so exciting to see you and to see your style. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Throop, who has observed more than his fair share of marching bands during his affiliation of 36 years with the Rose Parade. “I can’t wait to show you off to everyone, to the world.”

Follow the Pride as they travel to Pasadena at

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