Fresno State Marching Band performs at the 2023 Rose Parade

Video and photos by Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian

On Jan. 2, the Fresno State Marching Band capped off the 2023 Rose Parade with a seven-mile performance in Pasadena.

The Rose Parade goes down Colorado Boulevard and features floral-decorated floats, non-profit organization, equestrian riders, bands and more. Hundreds of thousands of people are in attendance and millions more watch it as it is televised around the world.

The Collegian met up with the band before and during the parade day to capture the photos below and talk with some of the band members.

The Fresno State Marching Band performs at the 2023 Rose Parade at Pasadena, California, on Jan. 2, 2023.
The Rose Parade is part of the Tournament of Roses, which includes the parade and the Rose Bowl Game held at the Rose Bowl Stadium.
The band waits around the corner of Orange Grove Boulevard, where the Rose Parade begins.
Parade attendees gather from around the world to see the Rose Parade. Residents were with their kids, watching from their backyards, while tourists from different countries packed the sidewalks, bleachers and roads in Pasadena.
Caleb Benson during practice before the Rose Parade on Jan. 1.

Caleb Benson is in his second year with the band and at Fresno State, majoring in psychology.

He said he found the band through YouTube and was hooked by its halftime performances at Bulldog games. Benson said he’s still in shock to perform at Pasadena in his sophomore year.

“But we’re all included in it. No matter where you started, this is the first year [the marching band] is going into the Rose Parade, so it’s really awesome,” he said.

Caleb Benson is in the color guard and spins flag. He said he has embraced a leadership role in the band, having more knowledge of the process and helping with the choreography. Benson enjoys guiding his band members when they ask for help.
Benson performs at the Rose Parade.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from starting [at the marching band] is being able to just let go of all of your anxiety and perform,” Benson said. “Because we put in so much work, hours and hours of rehearsal every week, and at the end of the day, we’ve given everything we need to prepare.”

Although he started playing trombone in high school, but then, Benson started winter guard the following season.

He decided to join the color guard instead of sticking to brass, where he gain a lot of his initial experience. However, Fresno State was another level, Benson said. What made Fresno State different from other colleges was the band member’s ability to increase the physicality, choreography and performance, he added.

“Our style is just different. We have really dynamic shows with really interesting arrangements. We have pop music, classical jazz and Latin. We include so much,” Benson said.

Fresno State band waits in the final minutes before going to perform at the Rose Parade.
Baton twirlers lead the marching alongside the rest of the color guard at the Rose Parade.

Heading into the Rose Parade, Benson said he was “nervous but in an exciting way.” So far, he’s enjoyed the travel with the other band members, going into the hotel and hanging out with friends during downtime.

His main message was to encourage people and Fresno State students to support the arts.

“Whether it’s music, dance, drawing or anything that shows support… because the arts are really important and a lot of people do it,” Benson said.

Jacob Grilione (center) listens to the band director during a practice on Jan. 1.

Jacob Grilione is also in his second year, playing baritone in the marching band, and he is also majoring in history.

He started playing in band in the fifth grade and throughout the rest of his early education. Grilione started with a trombone for concert band. Then, he later learned other instruments like the euphonium.

The Bulldog Marching Band first came to play during his junior year at Buchanan High School.

He also knew people who played for the band after graduating, so he knew it was something he’d want to be a part of.

“I’ve always been a music person, but I think the main thing was when I was a little kid, I had done sports and stuff but nothing ever really stuck out to me,” Grilione said. “So I wanted to try something new.”

Fresno State band members perform the Bulldog Fight song at Pasadena.

Now, Grilione said he feels fortunate for the opportunity to play at the Rose Parade. He said Fresno State band members all share that same passion for music he’s had since his childhood.

“You’re surrounded by a bunch of people who share the same vision and the same fire that burns for music… I feel like you wouldn’t find that as much so that’s what makes Fresno State super unique,” Grilione said.

He did not feel nervous for the Rose Parade but more dread because he knew how “brutal” the trek was going to be physically, Grilione added.

Once the marching band turns off Orange Grove Boulevard, it walks down a steep hill and around six more miles of hard pavement as coastal winds push them back.

“I’m hyped though. It’s been so fun for me so far,” Grilione said.

He said section leaders like Christian Gallegos played an important role to make everyone feel comfortable and prepared for big performances.

There are 298 members in the Bulldog Marching Band from instrumentalists, color guard and more.
The parade began at 8 a.m. and ended at 12 p.m. The ‘Dogs were at the end of the parade and finished things off as police escorted them from behind.

Kaylee Ghan is a freshman, majoring in political science through dual enrollment with Fresno City College. She plays the mellophone.

Ghan first saw the band perform her freshman year of high school during the Sierra Cup Classic, a band competition where Fresno State is known to play at.

After she graduated high school in 2022, she got to experience the Fresno State campus for the first time and immediately jump in the most eventful year in the band’s history. Ghan said it was intimidating at first, being a freshman at the Rose Parade.

“I’m kind of scared for it, but I think it’s going to be really fun. It’s really a great opportunity,” she said.

“It was kind of intimidating, but the more I though about it I was like, ‘OK, well, it’s not that bad. It’s only seven miles. It’s definitely going to be an experience for sure,’” Ghan added.

She also said her section leaders have been a great support system such as Lauren Webb, Wyatt Bible and Abel Hernandez.

Kylee Ghan (center) practices with the Bulldog Marching Band the day before the Rose Parade.
Saxophone players line up in preparation of the parade.
Clarinet player taking one last break before taking the first steps of a seven-mile march down the Rose Parade.
Fresno State trombone player performs the Bulldog Fight Song at Pasadena.
The band was led by drums majors, following a banner of Fresno State as they walked pass the residents and tourists of Pasadena.

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