El Roble marching band has big hurdle to play in London

The El Roble Intermediate School Marching Band and Color Guard are one of just 15 American groups that have been asked to perform at the 2020 London News Year’s Day Parade.

“We’re unbelievably excited for this opportunity,” said El Roble’s second year band director Taylor Estep, who was notified of the selection early last month and made the announcement to his students September 21.

“There were a lot of tears and a lot of happy, happy kids,” Mr. Estep said. “Parents, students and myself alike, we were all so emotionally proud of our kids.”

Now comes the hard part: Mr. Estep and the El Roble Instrumental Music Boosters need to raise a whopping $740,000 for the December 27, 2019 to January 3, 2020 trip. He projects there will be 200 kids going at a cost of $3,700 per child. This number includes an estimated 175 musicians and 25 color guards. The fees cover airfare, hotel, meals, sightseeing, insurance, instrument transportation, uniforms and incidentals.

A robust fundraising effort is being launched, and he’s hoping to enlist local boosters, businesses, parents and families to support the cause. He and the school’s instrumental music boosters will also sell ads on the band’s website, in its newsletter, on its equipment trailer and elsewhere. Several fundraising events are also in the works.

“This is a really proud moment for our school and our city,” Mr. Estep said.

It’s the first time any band from Claremont has been invited to the London parade, which began in 1987. El Roble is one of two California schools invited for 2020, and only the second middle school ever to be asked.

The parade is attended by more than a half-million people and watched by upwards of three million on TV. About 8,000 performers from around the world march for three hours past iconic London landmarks such as Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, with the route’s terminus at Westminster Abbey.

El Roble was recommended to the parade’s talent scouts by representatives in the US. The parade committee then researched the band through video, competition rankings and performance recordings. It also spoke with judges who’d seen the group perform.

The parade committee called Mr. Estep last month to extend the invitation. He went before the school board to get its approval, and then made the announcement to the kids.

“This was never something that I ever thought would be possible, so I’m delighted at the opportunity.”

At 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, October 25, Duncan Sandys, former lord mayor of the city of Westminster and great grandson of Sir Winston Churchill will be on hand at El Roble for a ceremonial presentation of the formal invitation to the parade.

The kids aren’t the only ones thrilled about the prospect of performing in England.

“I’ve never been to London,” Mr. Estep said. “I’m very excited. Again, not only are we getting to go to such a historically rich area, but somewhere where the arts and music are so integral to their past and history. To have our students perform there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I thought we’d never be able to make happen for our kids.”

The deadline for the initial $40,000 payment is next month. Beginning in February 2019, bi-monthly payments are required in increasing amounts, topping out with the final payment of $200,000 late next year. In the event they can’t raise the total amount needed—$740,000—by the end of 2019, all donations will be returned to the El Roble Instrumental Music Program, save half of the initial $40,000 payment, Mr. Estep said.

The El Roble job is Mr. Estep’s first out of college, and he’s certainly making the most of it. The 24-year-old 2016 Cal State Fullerton grad has grown the program from 76 students in his initial year to 102 this year. He projects he’ll have 140 students next year, and this group, with 25 kids from color guard and 35 then ninth-grade alumni, hope to make the trip to London.

The band, which will also march in the Hollywood Christmas Parade November 26, will begin rehearsing in earnest in anticipation for its London debut.

“I’m very proud and humbled by the growth we are having in this short time,” he said. “The kids are wonderful. They’re working so hard to achieve their goals.”

To donate, checks should be made payable to El Roble Instrumental Music Boosters and mailed to 665 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Online donations can be made at squareup.com/ store/el-roble-music-boosters, or by emailing elrobleinstrumentalmusic@ gmail.com.

—Mick Rhodes



[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story appeared in print and online. Details regarding the return of donations has been corrected. —KD]


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