HESPERIA • The first time Ricky Mendez picked up the saxophone in fourth grade, it didn't stick.
"That's when I picked it up, but I didn't really play it after that year," Mendez said.
But he returned to the alto saxophone three years later.
"One of my friends was in band," Mendez said, joining him there at Ranchero Middle School. "This time, I was really playing it and this time, I started to like it."
Mendez fell in love with the saxophone this time around — especially after a moment in the summer between his freshman and sophomore years of high school, when everything really clicked for him musically.
And now, in his final year in high school, the 17-year-old is going to be performing on international television, when he marches in the Tournament of Roses Parade this morning.
"There's other parades I've been in," he said, "but this is the big one."
He auditioned for the Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band back in October.
"I felt like my audition was really poor, but I'm really critical of myself," the teen acknowledged.
He's spent much of his winter break shuttling up and down the Cajon Pass, going to practice with members of the honor band.
"When I get there, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get the feeling and excitement," Mendez predicted.
This spring, Mendez will be taking on an even bigger challenge: Auditioning for a spot at the legendary Berklee College of Music.
The 123rd annual Rose Parade will air at 8 a.m. Monday on NBC Channel 4, KTLA Channel 5 and ABC Channel 7.