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December 21, 2016

The Pride of Eastside (TPOE) Marching Band just recently returned from an incredible west coast trip that included the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in the star studded 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade. For most students, that would be the ultimate highlight of any school year. For 11th-grader, Austin Huffman, it was just a warmup trip. At the end of the month he’s flying back to southern California to perform with the 2017 Bands of America Honor Band in the 2017 Tournament of Roses Parade.

That’s right, the Eastside High School and Newton College and Career Academy STEM Institute student, who happens to be a top-notch clarinet player, will be performing in the 2017 Rose Bowl Parade, or as TPOE band director Alan Fowler describes it, “The Grand-daddy of all parades!” Two trips to California to perform in two internationally televised parades will definitely make this school year one Huffman will always remember.

“When we got back from the Hollywood Parade, everyone was already talking about wanting to go back,” said Huffman. “And I have that opportunity. It was such a really cool experience. It was my first time flying and the first time I’d ever travelled west of Alabama. And now I get to do it again.”

Huffman submitted a video audition for the Tournament of Roses Parade in January 2016 and learned in March that he was one of only 300 selected by Music for All to be a member of the prestigious 300-piece national ensemble, which includes winds, percussion and a flag and dance team. Bob Buckner, who recently retired as director of the Western Carolina University “Pride of the Mountains” Marching Band, will direct the 2017 Bands of America Honor Band.

“I was in my physical science class at the Career Academy when I got the email saying I was selected,” Huffman explained. “That’s probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. I was so happy when I found out that I made it that I started texting all my friends.”

He added, “It’s just mind boggling. I don’t know the exact number who auditioned, but to think that they thought I was one of 300 of the best across the country who auditioned means a lot to me. I’m interested to see who else from Georgia got selected and I’m looking forward to meeting new people and making new friends.”

Huffman will spend a week in southern California, where he will have rehearsals, performances at the Tournament of Roses Bandfest and Disneyland, special activities and a featured appearance in the world-famous parade.

To ensure he was well-prepared, Huffman committed at least an hour a day to learning the music for the Rose Bowl Parade performance. And that’s in addition to his time spent practicing the music for the Eastside band performances, not to mention the homework and study time required for his three advanced placement classes.

“It’s been a lot to focus on,” said Huffman. “It’s a lot to juggle, but I’ve always believed that the more you do leads to more success.”

“Austin is a dedicated and devoted band student,” said Fowler. “This is his third year in our band and he brings a lot to the group.  This year he is our clarinet section leader and he also plays bass clarinet in our Symphonic Band.”

He added, ““This is certainly a huge honor for Austin. It’s an extremely special parade.”

For Huffman, performing in a marching band was a goal he actually set more than a decade ago.

“My dad took me to the SEC Championship in football in 2005 and I saw a marching band play and knew that was something I wanted to do when I got older,” said Huffman. “I love watching parades and marching bands. I love going to college football games and watching the bands perform. That’s why I joined band in sixth grade.”

Although he tried several instruments when he signed up for band in the sixth grade at Cousins Middle School, he quickly zeroed in on his favorite instrument.

“There were a few that I was good at but I decided I wanted to play the clarinet,” he said. “I always liked the sound of the clarinet. Out of all the woodwinds I liked it the most. I felt it was going to be the most exciting instrument to play and I’ve loved it. I wouldn’t want to play anything else.”

And he’ll be playing that clarinet when he marches in the 128th Rose Parade® in Pasadena, California on Monday, January 2, 2017.


“To be selected for this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for students and a testimony to their excellence and achievements,” says Eric Martin, Music for All President and CEO. “Austin will be one of only 300 members chosen to be part of the Bands of America Honor Band, and his participation deserves the admiration and support of everyone in their community. The Rose Parade® is one of our country’s national pageantry treasures, and the 2017 Honor Band members will be ambassadors of America’s bands, and of their states and communities.”

“It is exciting that Austin will be in the Tournament of Roses Parade,” said Fowler. “The Rose Parade and The Macy’s Parade are the two most revered parades in the world and it is incredible that we will have had kids march in both of them.  We’ve never had anyone go to Pasadena, so this opportunity is extremely special.  I so wish I could go see him march!”

It’s a sure bet that Fowler and the rest of the Pride of Eastside’s fans will be watching the 2017 Tournament of Roses Parade on television January 2 in hopes of catching a glimpse of Huffman marching in downtown Pasadena.

The 5.5-mile parade will start at 8:00 AM (PST) and will be broadcast on ABC, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, KTLA (Tribune), NBC, RFD-TV and Univision.