AUSTIN (KXAN) — On a windy December afternoon, the Vista Ridge Ranger Band hit the blacktop outside its Cedar Park campus one last time to iron out the kinks before an upcoming once-in-a-lifetime performance.

With the harmony of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” coming from their instruments, the 273 members marched through the motions, the final preparation before members themselves hit the road to Pasadena, California.

A member of the Vista Ridge Band plays the sousaphone. (KXAN Photo)
A member of the Vista Ridge Band plays the sousaphone. (KXAN Photo)

Associate Band Director Zach Santos has helped lead the band for the past five years. He said participating in the Jan. 2 parade is the culmination of years of work.

“It’s just a continued, constant growth every year,” he said. “We’re striving to be better both as teachers [and] students. Getting to do these national events are allowing us and helping us continue to grow each year.”

The Leander ISD school also holds the unique honor of being the only band directly invited by parade organizers to participate. The other 20 schools were selected through an application process.

The band was in Indianapolis for the Grand Nationals Competition when it was approached.

The Vista Ridge Ranger Band at the UIL State Marching Band competition. (Courtesy: Leander ISD)

“We were one of the 12 finalists at that contest and between semifinals and finals, they extended the offer as an invitation to attend the 2023 Rose Parade,” Santos said.

For many band members, this will be their first trip to California, and for all, the first time millions will be watching them perform.

Senior Roman Riojas is seizing the opportunity and feels ready for the show.

“It’s something that not a lot of bands get to say that they can do,” Riojas said. “I’m excited just to show the world what we can do, show what our little band from Texas can do.”

That confidence is palpable throughout the band. Whether it’s the wind instruments, percussion, or color guard, at this point it’s about fine-tuning the routine.

“I think just like as a collective drumline, we need to work on just making sure everything is crystal (clear), and perfect to go on national TV,” Junior Ellie Jegen said.

The band is the only one from Texas participating in the parade and plans to proudly represent the Lone Star State.

Leander ISD's Vista Ridge Raptor Band will play in the Rose Parade Jan. 2. (KXAN Photo)
Leander ISD’s Vista Ridge Ranger Band will play in the Rose Parade Jan. 2. (KXAN Photo)

“It’s just a way to bring our community and our program to a national level, and just get to share these students and what they do really well at the highest level,” Santos said.

Dozens of band parents chartered a bus to Pasadena after their scheduled flight on Southwest Airlines was canceled last week.