Orchestra marches into Lunar New Year Parade

Hailey Siu, Staff writer

Orchestra musicians learned how to march, with cellists and bassists switching to a new instrument for the critically acclaimed San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival. 

One hundred sixty-six band, orchestra and Color Guard students attended this parade Saturday, Feb. 4. While the parade is an annual event, Walnut only attends about every four years, making this a unique chance for music students to try something new. While some of the band had experience marching, the learning process for orchestra was an obstacle for some students.

“Practices are hard since we’re new [to marching],” violinist senior Janelle Hon said. “We just spend a lot of hours running in the field and on the track, just walking around and repeating the same song over and over again. I feel like the [repetition] builds endurance [and] resilience.”

A completely new experience for the typically seated orchestra, students needed to adjust to marching on the field. From knowing whistle commands to keeping track of when to step, musicians had to adapt to this unfamiliar environment. But with enough practice, students learning to march were able to smooth out the finest details.

“At first, [marching] was really awkward because I was out of sync with the rest of the group. I was not familiar with the whistle commands and the basics of marching, but in the end I figured it out.”

— Violinist junior Jason Lie

Some orchestra students faced even bigger issues with their preparation. Since students playing larger instruments like the bass and cello are unable to march with them, they had to learn another instrument such as the viola.

“Because the cello is such a big instrument, we obviously can’t put [the cello] on our shoulders. I had to switch to the saxophone [and] I had to learn the saxophone myself,” cellist junior Nathan Soo said. “It definitely takes a lot of work and time but I had a fun time learning an instrument I was never familiar with before.”

To prepare, both band and orchestra rehearsed every Tuesday in the morning and Wednesday after school for about an hour from Jan. 10 to Feb. 1. Musicians had a final rehearsal Thursday, Feb. 2.

“[Marching is] a little difficult because you have to be able to multitask and keep track of the notes that you’re playing with your hands while also maintaining composure and your feet,” violinist freshman Daniella Vargas said. “Over time, it got easier for me because I was able to memorize the notes, so I could [pay] more attention to my feet.”

During the two mile long parade, musicians adapted to the rainy and windy weather conditions, wearing ponchos to prevent themselves and their instruments from getting wet. 

“[The parade] was definitely tiring, but still really fun and marching in the rain is something very rare so it was really cool to experience that,” clarinetist junior Reece DeVera said. “Even though the rain and wind was tough, I still think we did well considering the circumstances.”