Former Montevideo band director marches in historic moment in Rose Bowl parade

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

Former Montevideo band director Ron Stary recently traveled to California from his home in South Dakota to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, joining the Band of Band Directors in the Rose Parade. The band was the first of its kind, being comprised of band directors from around the nation who applied to be a part of it.

Stary first heard about the opportunity in 2019 through a band director's publication and decided he needed to apply.  "Right away it resonated with me, this idea of a band of band directors. The theme was 'we teach music, we teach life'. That is what we do," said Stary.

The group of band directors gathered a week ahead of time, with time for two rehearsals together before the day of the parade. "We got the music back in the spring. It's quite a bit of music - about ten minutes. It's the length of music that I had always expected kids to memorize for a marching band field show. It was very appropriate that we talked the talk and now we walked the walk. And it was putting a 32-year career to the test," Stary says. To prepare for the event, Stary said he spent time working out, while playing his instrument - outside when the weather was nice, and on a treadmill when the weather was too cold to be outside.

Having recently retired from full-time band directing after a decade of teaching in Montevideo and eleven years teaching in Brookings. Stary said, "It was a great way for me to move into this next part of my life, and of course honoring the whole project of the foundation called Saluting Americas Band Directors. We got to promote music education and band directors on a worldwide stage."

With a guess that there were at least a million people in attendance, Stary said he was amazed at the crowd. "I've never seen a crowd like that before. Not only during the parade, but when we were going down the parade route, they were shouting 'we love band directors' and 'we love music teachers'," he recalls. The band of marching band directors was comprised of 270 former and current band directors with 46 of them having over 30 years of experience. Their ages ranged between 30 to 60 years old, with one band director from New Jersey that was 72 years old. The band's members came from all around the United States and Mexico.  "It was unique because not only were we the first to do this, but we were what's considered a float with marchers rather than a marching band," Stary says. 

Ronald Stary next to the 2022 Rose Parade float.

The parade float the band marched with was themed, Saluting America's Band Directors. "I might be a little biased, but one very unique thing about the American education system is how we have music in our schools. I think we can be really proud. Montevideo has a great tradition, and there's been some great people who have been there, and we have Dan Hampton there. The town has been really very supportive of the music program," Stary said. 

In addition to marching in the parade, the band was able to attend a banquet where they were able to network and meet some of the legends of the Marching Band world. "I met people from Ohio, California, New Jersey, New York, Georgia. One of the guys was Will Rawlins, Jr., who is from New Orleans and he's in that documentary called The Whole Gritty City. He's one of those guys making it happen for the youth of New Orleans," Stary said. 

The band of band director's historic participation in the parade was captured on film in a number of places, including a number of videos on YouTube that show up under a search for "The Band Directors Marching Band - 2022 Pasadena Rose Parade".

The band instructors float in the parade.

"It's honoring the people who came before me and carrying the torch to the next generation. It was a really neat way to think through the whole process and make all the time commitments and sacrifices work. It was really rewarding after all that work. And we hope our students find that out - that anytime you put in the music, it pays you back," Stary says.