The bands finally met again last week, when 105 students from Beijing No. 57 arrived in California for a few more days of rehearsals and a schedule packed with performances. They have more in common than they realized at first, said Brooke Read, a color guard captain.
"You don't need words to express what you want accomplished. You do it more in your actions and body language, being able to show and do, not yelling at them, talking at them" said Brooke, who will be the featured twirler during Tuesday's parade.
"Leaders don't always need words. They need actions."
Early Tuesday morning, the band from San Jose and the band from Beijing will meet at the bus at 5:45 a.m. and travel to the starting point for the Rose Parade. The music will be memorized, the feet in step, the flag flourishes in sync. The bands will wear matching uniforms -- Valley Christian in light blue, Beijing No. 57 in red -- and they'll spread into a parade block by instrument, not by country or band director.
Brooke Read will be toward the front, her dress speckled with 400 rhinestones. The parade is the ultimate reward for her senior year, for her band director's long-ago dream, for the 240 kids who learned to speak without words.
From the first note, the first step, she knows she'll be thinking something still hard to believe: "This is my band."
All of them.