Porterville High School Panther Band - Rose Bowl 2007
photo pending

Panthers march with the roses

By Esther Avila, for the Porterville Recorder
January 2, 2007
photo by Esther Avila

PASADENA - Making their sixth Rose Parade appearance, the Porterville Panther Band stepped down Pasadena's Colorado Avenue on New Year's Day to John Philip Sousa's “Washington Post.”

As the band rounded the famed corner of Orange Grove Boulevard onto Colorado Ave., they were met by nine national television networks who were broadcasting the parade live to millions around the world.

“Not very many bands can boast that they've played to rave reviews at New York's Lincoln Center but this one can. This one did that last year,” said commentator Bob Eubanks, announcing the band for the Emmy-award winning broadcast television station - KTLA. “In addition to Lincoln Center, the band has appeared at Kennedy Center, Constitution Hall and Carnegie Hall. They are the oldest band in the State of California, dating back to 1869.

The band members did not think about the five-and a half-mile long parade route they had to endure that morning. They were ready for it - and it showed.

“They were absolutely fantastic,” said band parent Michael McMaster, who watched the parade not far from the television cameras near Colorado Avenue and Orange Grove Boulevard “What was wonderful is that Jim [Kusserow] took so much extra time with the marching practices. He drilled them over and over and it all paid off. Everyone was in step. Everything was perfect.”

Though the Panther Band is one of the largest bands in the San Joaquin Valley, it was small in comparison to some of the other bands participating in the parade, said McMaster.

“But as far as quality - we can go up against any of those larger bands anytime. The Panther Band sounded great. We could hear them one fourth mile away as they rounded that big corner,” said McMaster. “My wife, Dawn, called me later when the band went past her. She was about two miles down the street and she was in tears. This was more than three miles into the parade and she said [band director] Jim Kusserow still had a grin from ear to ear.”

With more than 1 million spectators lining the route, drum major Miguel Soto said it was the crowd that made the experience memorable.

At one point, more than 250 Porterville supporters cheered, clapped and cried when the Panther Band marched by.

“This was the most incredible and greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” said Miguel. “The crowd was incredible - especially when we got to the part where we went past our parents. That really pumped us up so much. I got tears in my eyes. This is something I will definitely tell my grand children about some day.”

It was a sentiment expressed by many of the band members and leaders alike.

“It was just great. That crowd keeps you going,” said auxiliary director Lynn Enos. “Everything was perfect.”

Kusserow acknowledged that it has been past Porterville Panther Band appearances at the Hollywood Christmas Parade and the Rose Parade that have paved the way for the current band.

But they didn't get there without a lot of hard work, dedication, discipline and working together to achieve a common goal.

“You practice and practice and practice and prepare for the worst, but when you get right down to it, it is not as torturous as you might have thought,” said Kusserow.

Many band members agreed.

“It was easier than I imagined,” said band member Leslie Keele.

“Don't get me wrong, it was hard work. And painful. My arms started hurting by the time I got to the cameras [section] and the pain seemed to move in levels of pain. It was a huge relief getting to the end.”

But no matter how much pain the band members endured - no one knew. Every band member that started the parade, finished the parade.

“I was so proud of them when we got to Victory Park - the end of the parade. KTLA had a booth there and they were running the parade on a screen. I got to watch the band,” said Kusserow.

“We looked great. The kids looked great. They deserved this parade. We'll be back. This parade is infectious - especially the crowd. We'll have to do it again.” 

The Panther Band's performance can be seen on the Internet site, KTLA.com. The performance can be found at four minutes into the clip of KTLA Video, Part Nine.

This story was published in The Porterville Recorder on Jan. 2, 2007

PHS band brings crowd to its feet at annual Bandfest

By Esther Avila, for the Porterville Recorder
January 1, 2007 - 9:00AM
photo by Esther Avila
PASADENA - The Porterville Panther Band brought the crowd to its feet as it paraded off the track at Pasadena City College on Saturday morning after performing before a packed stadium at the 27th annual Tournament of Roses Bandfest - a two-day field-show exhibition showcasing the parade's award-winning bands.

The Panther band, led by drum major Miguel Soto, and under the direction of Jim Kusserow, played “Maria,” “Cool,” “I have a Love” and a medley of “America,” “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from its “West Side Story” football-season half time show.

“I've seen this half-time show at least 30 times,” said band parent Rick McIntire, who helps with band set up prior to each show and practice. “When they hit those big notes in that finale - it makes me cry every time. There's a lot of hard work done out there for this. We know they were not the biggest band in numbers out there today but there is no doubt - we had the bigger sound. It was outstanding. I think they knocked themselves out. They're awesome.”

After its performance, the band took a bus trip following the Rose Parade route as Kusserow pointed out interesting information pertaining to the parade and route.

Grandstands - with most of them having the first row elevated to five-feet for better viewing - could be seen throughout the route. In all, more than 70,000 grand-stand seats were sold out and more than a million people are expected to line the parade route.

“This is the corner with the 110-degree turn we've been practicing,” said Kusserow when the bus reached Colorado Avenue and Orange Grove Boulevard. “There will be 32,000 people on this corner alone.”

The coveted area is the site for the television cameras and is also known as the most expensive viewing area, as some of the bands stop to perform at the site.

The two-and-a half-hour parade, complete with a couple of hills along the way, is five-and-a-half-miles long but band members will walk and march more than seven miles before the end of the route.

The Panther Band - with its 221 band members, including 45 brass, 18 percussion, 90 woodwinds, two banner carriers, 20 flag bearers, 21 color guard and 22 letter girls - is No. 63 in the parade lineup.

The band follows Arctic Antics - Cal Poly University's student-built float depicting a jolly group of polar bears and penguins enjoying a South Pacific hula-themed party.

“I'm exhausted - just from driving it,” joked band member Kristi Sears when the busses finally reached the end of the route. “It seemed a lot longer than I imagined.”

Though Kristi and her friend, Kristin Keen, admitted that they were a little scared of today's marching, both also agreed that they were ready for it. Weeks of marching and practicing prior to today's parade will pay off, they said.

Band members spent the rest of Saturday afternoon in Old Pasadena, and spent Sunday at the Getty Museum and Farmer's Market before an early curfew Sunday night assuring plenty of rest for today's parade.

“They have powerful good stuff - we're going to be awesome in the Rose Parade,” said McIntire. “A lot of this is a tribute to Mr. Kusserow and all of the hard work and long hours that he puts in. He's done so much to teach these kids music and life skills that they will use all of their lives.”

This story was published in The Porterville Recorder on Jan. 1, 2007