MLK High to march in ‘Superbowl’ of marching bands

Kings of Halftime will raise $400,000 to travel to Tournament of Roses Parade. Photos by Travis Hudgons

In early 2014, Martin Luther King, Jr. High School’s marching band began a journey that will end in Pasadena, Ca., on Jan. 2, 2017.

MLK High’s marching band, also known as the Kings of Halftime and Marching Lions, are one of 21 marching bands and one of 12 high school marching bands selected to play in the 128th Rose Parade.

More than 1.5 million people will be watching the Kings of Halftime as they march a 5.5-mile route, showcasing their ability and musicianship with other bands from California, Oklahoma, Nevada, Japan, Mexico and the armed forces. Millions more around the world will be watching the band on television.

“For marching bands, this is our Superbowl,” said MLK High band director Travis Kimber. “This is the largest parade a high school band can participate in.”

MLK principal Ennis Harvey, a former band director at Stephenson High School who also has led a band to the Rose Parade, called the event “a great opportunity for the students as well as the MLK community to have exposure.”

MLK High band director Travis Kimber along with his assistants and drum majors are presented with the Tournament of Roses Parade Flag from the President of the Tournament of Roses Parade Brad Ratliff, during halftime Aug. 27 at Hallford Stadium.

MLK High band director Travis Kimber along with his assistants and drum majors are presented with the Tournament of Roses Parade Flag from the President of the Tournament of Roses Parade Brad Ratliff, during halftime Aug. 27 at Hallford Stadium.

“This is a great chance for students to create lifelong memories to take away from MLK High School,” Harvey said. “This will, in no doubt, aid [students] on their journey in becoming productive citizens.”

According to Kimber, video footage, pictures and letters of recommendation regarding MLK’s marching band were submitted to parade officials in early 2014. Two hundred marching bands—the Kings of Halftime included—were subsequently asked to submit applications.

“From there, it was whittled down to 50, from there to 25, and from there, down to a final 12 high school bands,” Kimber said.

MLK High School’s band is no stranger to distinction. While the band regularly receives superior ratings at the district and county level, in 2006, the band traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, to showcase its talent. In 2007, the band played before a national audience at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.

MLK’s crimson, silver and black could be seen competing at the 2011 Bands of America competition and the 2014 Ohio State Buckeye Invitational.

“This is our first time performing at this major event, but not the first time we have performed at a major venue,” Kimber said.

Kimber said the Rose Parade is unique in its longer-than-usual route (5.5 miles as opposed to a typical 2-mile route) and non-stop pressure.

“In a typical parade atmosphere, you have a high, a low, and another high, when the pressure is on you at the beginning and the end,” Kimber said. “At this parade, there are 1.5 million people on the route itself. There is no low point and [the route is] three times the length of a ‘long’ parade.”

Kimber said the Kings of Halftime will not deviate from the training brought them to this point: two and a half hours each day dedicated to marching and fundamentals.

“This is the regimen that has taken us to the parade,” Kimber said. “We believe the regimen will take us through the parade.”

Approximately 200 students, 25 parent chaperones and an eight-person staff will travel to Pasadena, each with an estimated price tag of $2,000.

In total, the trip will cost the Kings of Halftime $400,000. According to Kimber, the amount will be completely funded by students, parents and program members. Parents will supplement what the program cannot raise on its own, according to Kimber.

“We want students to understand there is a much broader world out there outside of DeKalb County,” Kimber said. “This is the beginning—a worldwide event where they can watch and learn from bands from Japan, the Carribbean and throughout the United States. What they do at MLK High School can put them on the worldwide stage.”

MLK High’s band hosted a two-hour concert titled “Jazz Under the Stars” on Aug. 26 featuring the school’s jazz band as well as professional musicians. On Sept. 25, the band will host a Band Extravaganza and Battle of the Bands at Hallford Stadium. A final fundraising event will take place at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College.

For more information, including how to donate to the band’s trip, call (678) 847-5402, contact or visit

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  1. Kristy Paine says:

    My family had the pleasure of meeting part of your group at the airport in Atlanta on Thursday on our way home to Kansas City following a trip to Florida. We tuned in to watch the parade just for you guys! Excellent job! You made us smile. Even my 3 and 5 year olds enjoyed the performance. :) Keep up the good work!

  2. Ms Spears says:

    Watching the Rose Bowl as we do every year to see the many wonderful things it’s always nice to here when Ga is in it This Year we were very embarisef when your school was introduced and you begin your performances and the first deplorable thing you do is grab your croch and make a vulgar and disgusting move. Do you not have any respect for your self your family or school. Didn’t watch you and glad they cut you short. Shame on you.

    • Andre of MLK says:

      Hello Ms Spears I’m one of the students who performed with the MLK band at the parade and I’m disappointed that you didn’t enjoy our show. However there are a couple points you missed. For one we didn’t grab our crotch but instead made the illusion that we did. Our great band director instructed us not to. On top of that we were only mimicking the Micheal Jackson move. Here in Georgia we’ve done that routine a thousand and one times for others and no one had a problem with it. Just because you’re not used to it doesn’t mean its a bad thing. We aren’t going to change our way of doing things just because we’re performing for a larger audience. We aren’t going to conform to your standards of whats acceptable and whats not. Honestly shame on you for being so closed minded. Your bigotry makes yourself look bad. We worked long and hard to earn our way into the parade. That same routine you said was vulgar is exactly what got us in the rose bowl in the first place. While you were “disgusted” and offended the rest of the world enjoyed us. And for you to say that you were glad that they cut us short is truly an insult. Shame on you. You missed out on a great show

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