SEMINOLE – Dan “Chip” Wood’s passion for marching bands and parades probably began as a small boy squatting on Bayshore Drive’s curb in St. Petersburg. With his mom, Wood watched with wonderment as the Festival of States parade brought keyed-up bands from around the country streaming into the community.
“I was always fascinated with the awesome sounds and sights the large out of state bands would display when they marched in downtown St. Petersburg every spring,” remembers Wood who now serves as director of band for Seminole High School.
In high school, Wood did, in fact, march proudly in the Festival of States parade, but never in an out of state, televised parade.
It’s this dream that Wood wants to share with his students. “After becoming band director, one of my goals was to have one of our bands from Pinellas County be that big out of state band in a nationally televised and world famous parade,” he said. “But even more, I wanted my students and families to have that experience and opportunity that they would remember for the rest of their lives.”
Imagine Wood’s surprise in October of 2003, when a representative from the Southeastern United States on the Music Committee of the Tournament of Roses called his cell phone with the good news. The Seminole High School Warhawk Marching Band was going to be in the 116th edition of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
Like music to his ears, pounding into his heart, Wood said that was a phone call he would never forget.
“The Road to the Roses is extremely important to me because it is a way that this community can rally behind and embrace a group of students for all the right reasons,” said Wood.
Stretching their musical muscles
Since then, the massive fund-raising efforts and practice sessions have rocked and rolled with great gusto. It’s no easy feat to raise $300,000 and get tuned up for an almost 6 mile, three-hour march at the opposite end of the country.
For now, the marching band is working on its fall season field show that it also will perform in Pasadena, Calif., during the week-long celebration at the Tournament of Roses called Bandfest. This is an exhibition of a majority of high school and college bands that are participating in the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl.
“Thousands attend the two-day event to watch the bands perform,” said Wood.
Later this fall, Wood said the band would start work on the parade music and routine. Members will need to do some physical and cardiovascular training to get ready for the 5.5 mile parade route.
“The Tournament of Roses Parade is one of the longer parades in the country and definitely the longest one the Warhawk band has ever been in,” said Wood. “But we are up to the challenge of this almost three hour performance down Colorado Boulevard.”
He said professionally planning for the “105 degree turn on Colorado Boulevard in front of all the media cameras” is important, too. “This takes some preparation to do in order to look good in front of the world,” Wood said.
The musical director is working to finalize the music for the actual parade but may select Chuck Mangione’s “Land of Make Believe” and a patriotic selection since the event’s theme is a celebration of family.
“I am trying to find music that will be representational of the parade’s theme while trying to best represent Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida,” he said.
Fund-raising is moving forward, but slowly
Although the group is not getting the donations as quickly as it had hoped, Wood said, that’s not for lack of trying.
“The band boosters have been working extremely hard to try and make our dream of representing our community in the Rose Parade a reality. These dedicated parents and boosters have been working nonstop to ensure that we raise this large amount of money so that we leave no student behind when we travel,” he said.
Kids take heart at community support
The huge fund-raising effort has received donations from $5 to $5,000.
“We have some people that send a small check every week, saying that ‘it is all I can give with my income but I’m going to send something every week,’ ” Wood said. “People like that in Seminole make the difference and really touch the kids when I tell them about it.”
But whatever money is ultimately raised, the support is applauded.
“I want to thank the community members, businesses in the area, the city of Seminole, alumni and, of course, the boosters for all of their support, sponsorships, donations, partnerships and efforts in trying to send us out to California to represent our incredible community and county.”
“Seminole has always been a proud community,” said Wood. “Now it can show the world how proud it is of its children by getting on the band wagon and making our dreams come true by participating in the granddaddy parade of them all.”
Daniel Wood is currently in his 10th year of teaching and is in his fifth year as director of the five bands at Seminole High School. Prior to his position at Seminole, Wood was director of bands at East Lake High School for five years. Wood, a native of St. Petersburg, earned his bachelor of music in music education degree from the University of Florida in 1994. Wood studied instrumental conducting with Dr. David Waybright and percussion studies with Dr. Robert McCormick at the University of South Florida and Dr. Mark Spede.
His list of awards and accomplishments is long and impressive. Recently, Wood and the Seminole band were awarded the prestigious John Philip Sousa Foundation’s Sudler Shield Award for excellence at the international level for outstanding marching bands for high schools and youth bands. He was a top finalist for Teacher of the Year for all of Pinellas County Schools in the category of Ambassador of the Profession. In April of 2004, Wood was voted as the 2004 Secondary Music Educator of the Year for Pinellas County Schools.