Tyler Arakaki still can’t quite believe he got chosen to march in the London New Year’s Day Parade.
But, when the Christopher High School senior and his mother Roberta fly into the historic capital of England this week, it’ll become a reality, even if it still feels unbelievable, he admitted.
Arakaki, a member of the school’s band since his freshman year, will represent the United States and Varsity Spirit in the parade as a drum major, marching alongside 350 cheerleaders and dancers from across the country.
“It’s not a feeling that I’ve gotten used to,” he said. “When I first found out, I was literally freaking out. When we get there, it will start becoming more real.”
Running since 1987, the London New Year’s Day Parade attracts more than 10,000 participants from the U.S., U.K., Europe and beyond to a street audience of more than 500,000 and a TV audience, which reaches millions annually, according to parade organizers.
Arakaki learned of his selection at the conclusion of drum major camp this summer in Moraga, where he was one of five others chosen to march in London based on their outstanding ability. Only the top 12% of students from Varsity Spirit camps across the country earn the chance to participate, according to the organization.
“I just remember standing in line with the four others, we were like, ‘why are we up here, camp is over,’” he recalled. “Then they announced the five drum majors as the 2023 All-Americans, and I remember all five of us looking at each other and simultaneously smiling.”
Arakaki’s passion for music originated from his musical father, but it blossomed in the fourth grade, when he joined a choir program. His love for it only grew from there.
He has been part of the chamber choir at Christopher High School for all four years of his high school career, three of which as choir section leader. He also performed with the Regional Honor Choir as an eighth-grader and freshman at San Jose State, and recently performed with the choir in San Luis Obispo in November.
Arakaki’s quest to become a drum major, a role that leads the marching band, began during his freshman year.
“I thought my drum major was super cool,” he said. “[The role] was super appealing and I wanted it.”
The band director at the time noticed Arakaki’s interest, and during his junior year, he was appointed to the role.
During drum major camp, Arakaki said the experience raised not only his technical ability, but his leadership skills.
That leadership knowledge should serve him well in the future, as he has set a goal of becoming a music instructor as a career. Arakaki, who plans on attending the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in the fall to study music education, is already giving private lessons to the younger generations.
Roberta Arakaki said her son has a natural talent for working with children, which was on display during a recent summer choir camp where Tyler served as a counselor.
“You could just see how the kids just adored him,” she said. “He has the personality where kids gravitate towards him. Him having some amazing teachers have helped him along the way and helped him become an amazing musician.”
Roberta added that Tyler “amazes me everyday.”
“It’s truly an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said of her son’s selection to the London New Year’s Day Parade. “Everything he’s accomplished melts my heart. I’m just so proud of him for chasing his dream and not being afraid of going after everything he wants.”