By MATTHEW KRISTOFFERSEN
The Rose Bowl is always preceded by the Rose Parade. Likewise, Thanksgiving dinner cannot be eaten before watching the Macy’s Parade. Simply put, parades–and marching bands–are typically just a complement to central events like football games or clever marketing ploys.
But in the Redlands Christmas Parade, marching bands are the main attraction to the hundreds of bundled-up crowd members who line the streets of Downtown Redlands every year. Especially the elementary band.
“It definitely makes a presence because they’re the ‘big orange blob,’” Kathy Shanteler, mother of Redlands East Valley assistant drum major Renee Shanteler, said.
This orange blob–formally referred to as the Redlands Unified School District Elementary Band–is an integral part of the parade, and its effects are noticeable in the community.
“[My daughter] definitely got bit by the marching band bug and that’s why she kept it up all the way through. She wants to do it in college,” said Shanteler.
According to former Redlands East Valley director and current leader of the 340-strong elementary music program Adelle Glass, the band has taught thousands of students since its first parade close to the turn of the century. Each of those performers have experienced the rush of adrenaline and sense of accomplishment characteristic of performing in the Redlands Christmas Parade, something that the program prides itself on.
“It was really fun because we were able to show off the music we had just learned, which was not very much at that point” Redlands East Valley senior Taylor Gonzales says. She spent this year’s parade conducting the Marching Wildcats, one of her many jobs as the band’s head drum major. Like a large portion of her peers, she played “Go, Go, Go” and “Jingle Bells” with the elementary school band. This is her ninth year participating in the parade. “I’m going to miss being in the Christmas Parade. I’ve been doing this for so long and have made so many memories that shaped me into the person I am today.”
“Renee loved it,” Shanteler reminisced. “Back in those days, Mr. Apomadoc had the kids very excited and pumped up. They looked forward to the parade. They spent a couple of times practicing at Crafton Elementary. They would just march around the playground and keep time. Now, Mrs. Glass does it with assistants as well.”
To call the band a parade block is an understatement. Every year, hundreds of fourth and fifth graders flood the streets of Redlands like a torrent of christmas lights and valuable brass instruments. However, unlike regular the weather phenomenon, this is a flood that parents cheer for.
REV graduate and freshman at UCLA Aaron Goodman remembers his experiences in the parade fondly. “The drumline was pretty tiny in elementary school, so I felt pretty special, and being in the huge band was exciting. All of my friends were there,” he said. Despite the fact that “the block would tear and there would be three different tempos at the same time,” he “appreciated the quantity of people and the volume.”
The elementary school marching band is not expected to be perfect, but to many, its imperfections are what makes it so revered in the city’s culture.
“For kids that have only been playing their instruments for a couple of months and only get 15 minutes of instruction each week at school, they sound amazing. You can at least tell what the songs are. They’re going in the right direction,” Shanteler admits. “I have to say, for that amount of children, both Mr. Apomadoc and now Mrs. Glass do an amazing job keeping them very focused and organized.”
Every year, Glass invites high school percussionists–this year from Citrus Valley– to volunteer in the band’s drumline in order to bolster its ranks and improve cohesion.
“It was neat to see how we really sounded like when we were the same age as those playing in the band,” Goodman said. He frequently volunteered for Glass when he was in high school. “It made me optimistic to know that the talented kids who play in the band will grow up to sound as good as or better than my high school band.”
Organized into lines as askew as the Christmas hats on members’ heads, the elementary band will continue to instill a love of performance into thousands of children for years to come.
As for Glass, “It is very exciting to see them in their very first performance of this sort. I know what great things are to come later in our middle school and high school programs so I want to set them up for success in those programs.”