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Former Ironwood Ridge band director prepares to march in Rose Parade

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 10:40 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A former Ironwood Ridge High band director is preparing for one of his biggest performances while representing southern Arizona in the Rose Parade on Saturday, Jan. 1.

Mark Hodge said the opportunity is a bucket list item for him.

Hodge performed in the Rose Parade with the Salvation Army when he was 14, and now he will march alongside 275 band directors from across the country.

According to the band’s organizing group, Saluting America’s Band Directors, this will be the first-known Rose Parade marching band in which all members are band directors.

“The part of the parade we’re marching in is honoring the Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation, it’s honoring a former band director from Pickerington, Ohio,” Hodge said. “They decided to ask band directors from across the country to be part of it, and we applied for it and got selected.

The Foundation was created to recognize and carry on the work of Sewell, who dedicated his life to the music programs in Pickerington and the Columbus/Central Ohio area for more than 38 years. Hodge said the band directors will be marching together to recognize the sacrifices directors make to shape the lives of those they teach.

“Whether it’s choir, drama, band, that’s what brings them (students) to school. So if you can teach them a love or passion of something, that keeps them coming to school to learn the other things they need to, that’s what matters,” Hodge said. “For me, my band director in high school had such an impact on my life at the time, that I just wanted to give that back.”

The event was supposed to happen last year but was canceled due to the pandemic. Hodge has since retired from his band director position but said the march will help represent his past 27 years of serving his students and community.

“It’s not really about me, it’s about honoring other directors and people who have done what I’ve done for 30 years,” Hodge said. “I’m excited to connect with band directors, do what we love, learn from them and then talk to them after about how we’re going to make those goals a reality.”

According to Saluting America’s Band Directors, the band will perform a special arrangement of Meredith Willson’s “Seventy-Six Trombones” by Lisa Galvin called “Salute to America’s Music Makers,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa, “Strike Up the Band” by George Gershwin, and “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima.

Hodge said it will be interesting to see just how good band directors are at marching, after teaching from a distance for so long.

“I think it’s going to be a riot, it’s going to be fun,” Hodge said. “If you’re watching Saturday, think of the band director that touched you or your kids, reach out and say thanks. You think we hear it a lot but we don’t, and it could be the difference of making them come back for another year.”

You can look for Hodge during the second hour of the parade. The salute will happen around 7 a.m.

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