2007-11-02 / Community

Marching band competitions drum up support for music at high schools

UCLA makes appearance at Royal Classic; Simi Band Spectacular a success despite fires
By Eliav Appelbaum eliav@theacorn.com

Photos by IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers SHOWING SOME BRASS- Performing a medley of four Stevie Wonder hits, the Simi Valley High School marching band, left, turns up the funk in the 39th Annual Band Spectacular in Simi Valley on Saturday. The Royal High School marching band horn section, at right, blasts out a brassy melody during the competition. Photos by IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers SHOWING SOME BRASS- Performing a medley of four Stevie Wonder hits, the Simi Valley High School marching band, left, turns up the funk in the 39th Annual Band Spectacular in Simi Valley on Saturday. The Royal High School marching band horn section, at right, blasts out a brassy melody during the competition. Simi Valley and Royal high schools may be rivals when it comes to athletics.

But when their marching bands get together, it's all about entertaining the crowd.

Simi Valley High enjoyed its 39th Band Spectacular last Saturday. The previous weekend, the Highlanders hosted their Royal Classic for the 24th time on the football field.

"These events are really very special," said Tricia Brown, Royal's band administrative director, who's been at the school for eight years. "All the high schools come together, and it allows the schools the opportunity to show how hard they've worked. Each school is different and they're all very creative musically and visually. It's really fun for everybody."

Royal got a special treat on Oct. 20, when UCLA's marching band closed the daylong competition with a stirring performance. The band arrived after the Bruins football team defeated UC Berkeley, 30-21, at the Rose Bowl.

"They were coming in on a big high," Brown said. "It really topped off the day."

Royal band booster Laura Douglas agreed.

"It was incredible," Douglas said. "They were absolutely phenomenal. It was breathtaking."

The threat of fires and a little afternoon rain couldn't slow down the Band Spectacular at Simi High. Five schools dropped out of the program because of the fires and smoke, but 24 schools participated.

Sixteen schools attended the Band Spectacular in 2006. Simi Valley and Royal attended each other's events.

The spectacular went from 10 a.m. till about 9 p.m., and was broken up into two shows for smaller and bigger bands. Each band had 11 minutes to enter the field, perform and exit the field. They were judged on the quality of their music, marching and visual effects by the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association.

IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers TIME TO SHINE- A Royal High trumpet player performs. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers TIME TO SHINE- A Royal High trumpet player performs. Simi Valley, with 60 band members, performed "The Music of Stevie Wonder," a four-song medley that included "Sir Duke," "Superstition," "My Cherie Amour" and "For Once in My Life."

"It was fantastic," said Craig Foster, president of the Simi Valley High School Music Boosters club and a member of the Simi Sunrise Rotary Club. "It's a very involved production to put on. Hundreds of volunteers help make it happen."

The biggest sweepstakes winner at both schools' events was Granada Hills High School, which just so happened to be Foster's alma mater.

Royal's 85-member marching band performed "Milongueros," or tango dancers, an original piece by band director John Best.

"I think it's very important for kids to have something that they're trying to achieve and put so much hard work in preparing a show," Best said. "Their work in the marching band translates to all other areas of life skills. Trying to perfect something is an applicable skill to anything in life."

Twentyseven schools participated in the Royal Classic, including Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Newbury Park, Camarillo and Rio Mesa, and marching bands varied in size from 166 (Thousand Oaks) to 37 (Newbury Park).

These events are the biggest fundraisers of the year for each school's marching band program, helping to pay for new instruments and the repair of old instruments and to buy cases.

With 160 students in the Royal instrumental music department, not everyone has their own instrument.

"It's an expensive program with expensive toys," Brown said.

"We're always asking the general public to donate instruments to the school. We don't have enough instruments for the kids. It's a problem for the kids. They have to share, which isn't a great thing because of health issues or if someone wants to take it home or if someone leaves it at home or someone gets sick."

The big events make the hard work during the year pay off.

"The kids really enjoy it, the audience enjoys it," Brown said. "The marching band is a such a special program. Kids spend four years in high school together, they compete together and they travel together while working with the same staff for four years."

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