Looking Back: Inside the Disneyland Holiday Special Featuring the Arcadia High Band and Color Guard

Arcadia Band at Disneyland
Courtesy photo / AUSD

By Arcadia Unified Digital Communications Intern Kate Fletcher

As the season abruptly ends for all high school performing arts groups, it’s important to celebrate some of the amazing things our students have done throughout the year. One of the most memorable is the Arcadia High School Band and Color Guard’s appearance in the Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade. The Apaches were the sole marching band to appear in the ABC television program and did so alongside dazzling floats, Disney Princesses, and Grammy award-winning artists. 

The Arcadia High School students were invited to appear in a promotional piece for the Disney+ series, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” This new show is a spin-off of the hit film “High School Musical,” bringing fans back to East High in a mockumentary-style show that centers on the school’s current cohort of students. The band and color guard connection comes by way of one of the show’s main characters, Carlos Rodriguez, who is the student choreographer of the musical as well as East High’s color guard captain. 

Although the parade aired on Christmas day, filming took place all the way back in November. Even earlier, the band’s introduction montage was filmed at Arcadia High School.

“It was weird and interesting to see a film crew filming our daily routine,” says sophomore flute player Jenny Park, who also noted that “everybody was a bit more excited and nervous,” yet eager to have all of their hard work captured on camera.

Sydney Chang, Arcadia High Band president and senior, was one of three students to be interviewed by the film crew. “It was my first time being interviewed for anything on camera, other than for [the school’s advanced video production program] Apache News,” explained Chang, who added with a laugh, “Honestly, I didn’t really want to see myself speaking on TV because who likes seeing themselves on camera, right?” Nerves aside, Chang emphasized that this was undoubtedly an amazing experience and added that all of her family and friends were thrilled to see her on national television.  

Arriving at school at 6 a.m. the morning of Nov. 14, 2019, the Arcadia High’s Band and Color Guard sacrificed a school day to head to the “happiest place on earth.” Entering into a special parking lot, the Apaches were granted the rare opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes look at the park, just as Disney cast members do. During the  experience, Park recalled how “it felt strange to see the old roller coaster carts because we could have gone on them before,” and parade floats resting in their warehouses “seemed huge in real life.”

Filming for the parade was not done continuously, as the students and the cast of the series were the only two to be filmed on the 14th. After marching a short parade performance to get to Main Street U.S.A, the students waited as the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” cast performed original music from the show as well as music from the High School Musical movies. Next came the “real life High School Musical”, with a performance the students learned specifically for the taping. In addition, 500 Apache family members were invited to serve as an audience for the performance, joined by supportive Disneyland park-goers. 

“Although I was excited about filming, I was more focused on the sponsored trip into the two parks since I had only been to Disneyland once before,” admitted Arcadia High Color Guard Captain Sharon Hoang. After the filming, the Apache Band and Color Guard, friends, and family were free to explore Disneyland and California Adventure for the rest of the day. 

Arcadia High’s Band and Color Guard are no strangers to being featured on television. “Past performances in the Rose Parade, Pearl Harbor Parade, etc. helped us get this opportunity,” explained Arcadia High Band Director Kevin Sherrill.

“Both the Rose Parade and the performance at Disney were such fun experiences,” remarks Hoang. “Being able to perform in both parades was absolutely amazing.”

Although the filming at Disney was not as long, Hoang describes that “the process was extremely similar” as both parades required clean twirls and big smiles from the color guard. Furthermore, all bands in the Rose Parade also perform in a parade at Disneyland each year. The band has marched in this prestigious parade 16 times, typically every 4 or 5 years, and is set to march again in 2021.

In addition to the Rose Parade, the band and color guard has also performed in two presidential inauguration parades, one in 2005 for President George W. Bush and another in 1957 for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Furthermore, Arcadia percussion can be found in a 2015 Super Bowl Commercial, and the 2019 national bronze medalist team has even drummed live on KCAL9. Most recently, the band and color guard could be spotted performing at both pregame and halftime of the 2020 New Year’s Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

“The opportunities that came with the program were amazing,” recounts Hoang, after finishing her last color guard season. “The friends I made over my four years became my second family. Although the cancellations were crushing, I am grateful for the many memories I’ve made this year and I wouldn’t trade it for and anything in the world.” 

May 14, 2020

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