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    For UMass band, Rose Parade is a long haul

    Members of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst marching band play during a pep rally outside Faneuil Hall in Boston on Friday Oct. 25, 2013.
    Associated Press/Elise Amendola
    Members of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst marching band play during a pep rally outside Faneuil Hall in Boston on Friday Oct. 25, 2013.

    On New Year’s Day, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Minuteman Marching Band will perform in the 129th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Beyond the pomp of the internationally televised event, the 400-member band faces a host of challenges — like a grueling 5½-mile route. (Imagine hoisting a tuba for that distance.)

    To understand some of those logistics, Metro Minute spoke with the band director Tim Anderson. “There’s definite excitement and there’s also nerves, and I think that’s OK,” Anderson said. “The nerves motivate the focus because we have a lot to do when we get out there.”

    How does this parade’s route compare to an average performance for the band? What kind of preparation goes into that?

    So this year we performed in Westborough for Westborough’s 300th anniversary parade and that was about maybe 2¼ miles. That’s not even half of the distance of the Tournament of Roses.


    There are two ways of approaching it. One is we work as a band in small groups and just perfect the style because you’re seen by so many people so just the basic marching technique — how to move as a line. The Rose Parade is famous for this 110-degree turn where all the cameras are on you. So we’ve been concentrating on how you can keep the band together as it’s going around a corner. As for the endurance, that’s just a thing where we’ve been imploring the students to ‘take care of yourself.’ I do a thing where I challenge them each day. If I put on 3 miles at the treadmill, I make sure the whole band knows ‘hey, who’s going to top me today?’ And we’ve been doing that ever since that Westborough parade.

    How will you be getting your group to California?

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    We’ll have 408 students in the band and then we have support staff and the like so it’s a traveling party of around 420 people. And we already have a semi [truck] with the large equipment that’s already out there. That left on Dec. 19. . . . So the next part is getting everyone from here to there. We’ll have just one big charter jet — a big 747 that can seat 470 people something like that. So we’re going to have it pretty close to filled.

    Is the band used to traveling these kinds of distances?

    Not like this. The farthest west our band has ever been has been Indianapolis. We haven’t flown by jet since I think the 2006 football championship game. This is a new thing for all of us to go to this. All of the trips we’ve done since I’ve been here has been always by bus. So this is something a little farther than the average bus ride.

    Sophia Eppolito can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SophiaEppolito.