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Southern California marching bands sound off

OCEANSIDE — Southern California marching bands took to the field at El Camino High School on Nov. 11 to compete in the Marching Band Spectacular with themes that ranged from Star Wars music and glowing lightsaber props to country music and cowboy hats and boots.
Seventeen bands that ranged in size from 40 to more than 200 band members were judged on musicianship, marching and artistry.
“They’re looking for the musicianship from the students,” Donna Clark, Southwest High School band director, said. “How well they produce the sound, project the sound, balance and blend the sound, and the complete quality of the music.”
Band sound is critical. “It’s kind of a play on words, but I think it should be ‘band marching,’ because music is more important than the marching,” Brett Voght, drum major of Capistrano Valley High School Black and Gold Brigade, said. “Our director emphasizes that the music is more important. We’ll do sectionals on music for two hours.”
“They’re also looking for the marching,” Clark said. “Are they spaced evenly, are they on the right foot? From the auxiliary they are looking for the artistry. Are they actually telling the story of the music through the body movement using flags and props?”
Color guards bring the auxiliary interpretation to the field. “The color guards, well they bring the color to the performance,” Barbie Anthony, color guard instructor of West Hills High School in Santee and Valhalla High School in Rancho San Diego, said.
To create the field routine, the team band director, drill writer and color guard instructor storyboard the performance. Music is written, drill movement is determined and a color guard routine is choreographed.
“I get the fun job of putting together all the visuals,” Anthony said. “I take that drill and write the flag work, the riffle work and the body work that goes with it.”
For some bands competition is about going out and doing their best, others are signed up for Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, or SCORA, championships. Bands competing in SCORA championships have their top three competition scores from the season tallied to determine if they qualify to compete in December against the best bands in Southern California. Competitions are held throughout Southern California every weekend leading up to the championships.
“You can go on to tournament of champions or you can do what we do, that is just get out there and perform,” Clark said. “We want to see improvement from the students every time they go out and we want the kids to have fun.”
Polishing band performances for championship competition takes hours of practice. “Marching band takes a lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of rehearsals to earn these awards,” Voght said.
Capistrano Valley High School took first place in band, second place in execution, and third place in percussion in the 2A band category at the Marching Band Spectacular. The band swept all three categories in their previous competition the week before with three first places.
“The band kids go through a lot of hard work,” Voght said. “The kids realize how much effort our band director is giving us and we try to push back and give him as much as we can.”