2014 Spring Newsletter

Mustang Band in Chinese New Year Parade

Mustang Band in San FranciscoOn Nov. 1, 2013, the Mustang Band performed for the dedication of the Warren J. Baker Center for Science & Mathematics. The ceremony celebrated the building — the culmination of more than 20 years of planning — its new instructional possibilities, and those who made it possible. Among the attendees were State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and Congresswoman Lois Capps. The Mustang Band was on hand to provide further pomp and entertainment befitting the occasion. In honor of President Emeritus Baker, the center’s namesake, the band provided an impromptu performance of the fight song from the University of Notre Dame.

Among the guests at the dedication ceremony was an individual who is not only well connected to Cal Poly but also well placed within the artistic and cultural community of San Francisco. Upon seeing the band perform, the question was posed, "What would it take to get Mustang Band to appear in the Chinese New Year Parade?"

The excitement of the opportunity — the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of China — was amplified by the prospect of the exposure to nearly one million parade attendees in addition to an international broadcast in at least three languages. Phone calls were made and application deadlines met. Eventually the word came back from the organizing committee: the Mustang Band was officially invited!

Band members

Parade conditioning at the Rec Center.

Once Cal Poly football season ended, the band shifted into parade preparation mode. The most parade-style marching the band ever does is along Perimeter Road on football game day: down the hill to the stadium at the beginning of the day, then back up the hill five hours later. In winter quarter during basketball season, the band kept it up by adding weekend rehearsals, practicing tight turns on the streets of campus.

On the day of the parade, the band boarded five charter buses. A sixth bus bore the Cal Poly Stunt Team who, conveniently, would find themselves competing in San Francisco the following day and so were able to join the day’s performances.

The buses arrived in time for the students to enjoy a leisurely lunch along The Embarcadero and to spend time with family and friends.

After lunch, the band convened to perform a concert with the UC Davis Band in front of the Ferry Building. The massive musical event drew a huge crowd. The Mustang Band greeted those assembled with a powerful rendition of "Malagueña." The two bands traded tunes for about an hour. At the end, the Cal Poly band invited popular local busker Drum King to join in the fun.

While awaiting the start of the evening parade, the students of Mustang Band were treated to the sounds and sights of a celebration of Chinese culture. Musicians, from middle school children to members of the San Francisco Symphony, ran through their musical numbers on traditional instruments, and lion dancers practiced their moves, bobbing and weaving across the streetcar tracks and between light poles.

At 6:30 p.m. "The Pride of the Pacific" began marching at Market and 2nd Streets, and 90 minutes and two miles later they finished at Kearny and Washington. For nearly a million spectators, including the occasional flash of Green and Gold, the band presented their characteristic bold sound. The occasional burst of marching choreography delighted young and old along the route.

Video about and from the parade is posted on YouTube.

Mustang Band photos courtesy of Ian Billings.