The UCLA Marching Band’s 2023 Tour of Taiwan

4 min read

The UCLA Marching Band is used to traveling, but 2023 turned out to be special. For a week in October, the Solid Gold Sound toured Taiwan and performed as an honored guest in Taiwan’s National Day celebrations at the invitation of President Tsai Ing-wen.

For many Bruins, the trip was a life-changing experience. More than a dozen had never left the United States before, and the School of Music assisted securing them passports. Universally, Bruins reported being overwhelmed by the warm welcome they received from the Taiwanese people. They found beautiful, heartfelt welcome letters waiting for them in their hotel rooms and were daily treated to boba milk tea and delicious desserts.

“We were all treated like celebrities, with cameras following us around everywhere,” said Angelina Chen, the feature twirler. Chen, who spent two years in China as a child and speaks fluent Mandarin, was still surprised and delighted by her explorations in Taiwan. 

For those who had less exposure to East Asian culture, the trip made an indelible impact. Sophia Buraglio, a fourth-year drum major, raved about her first-ever pineapple cake. Emilia Magdaleno, a second-year trumpet player, was impressed with the communal dining experience in Taiwanese restaurants enhanced by the Lazy Susan. The rotating tray placed at the center of the table, relatively uncommon in American restaurants, allowed Emilia and her friends to share dishes without having to worry about passing food around. All agreed that such nights helped bring the band closer together.

During the trip, the Bruins became a fixture on Taiwanese news stations. Kenneth Chu, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student who plays trumpet, said his family members in China and Taiwan were thrilled to see him on the news. They were especially proud, said Chu, to see him representing UCLA as a Taiwanese native. 

Emilia Magdaleno reported that her parents wanted to freeze the moment to cherish it forever, “There’s this really cool picture my mom took while my dad was standing in front of the TV while I was in the frame,” said Magdaleno. 

The trip involved a busy touring schedule. Marching band members interacted with members of the Taipei Municipal Chien Kuo High School Marching Band, the Republic of China Naval Academy Drum and Bugle Band, and the Emerald Knights Band from Tokyo, among others. 

Of course, not everything about international travel was smooth. There was the tricky issue of the time difference, which more than one Bruin forgot when phoning home to California. Many a family member was awoken in the middle of the night for an eager recap of the day’s events. 

Among the trip’s highlights was the Bruins headlining performance at the National Day parade. The marching band did their “mighty interactive” version of the fight song “The Mighty Bruins,” and the crowd joined in for the 8-clap. Joining in as well was lawmaker Lo Chih-cheng, a UCLA alum. 

“This was an extraordinary educational experience and one of the many blessings of being at a place like UCLA,” said Eileen Strempel, inaugural dean of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. “To hear the inspirational words of President Tsai Ing-wen warmly welcoming our students to the Palace was something I will always treasure.”

Band members were quick to thank all those who made the trip possible. They gave a special shout out to director Ken Fisher, associate director Erick Jovel, inaugural dean Eileen Strempel, vice chancellor Monroe Gorden, the staff of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music who attended, their tour guides, and everyone else who made the trip possible. 

“Thank you to each and every one of you,” said Emilia, “for giving my peers and me a trip that will undoubtedly be told to our future generations!”