To outsiders, band seems like an entirely different world. Venturing into the band room is like entering uncharted territory, where stares will follow a new, unusual presence. Students fill the area at all times of day and practically every day of the week, whether it’s music floating out the open doors or students playing cards and eating lunch. To those who call the band room home, the height of activity is now.
Just back from the SCSBOA field show championship, the Santa Barbara High Sschool Marching Band holds an eight place trophy and is ready for the end of the season. After the State Street holiday parade Friday night, the band returns to school on Saturday to host its home competition. The last tournament of the season, Battle of the Bands is an opportunity for marching bands from across Southern California to get in just one more show before hanging up their uniforms for the year. For senior members, this show is possibly the most important performance of the season in what may be their last time marching on the field. Tradition reigns both on and off the field as seniors receive recognition for their many hours of service.
Band members arrive at school around 8 a.m., setting up tables, putting up posters, and stocking the food booth. Parents head the production of the notable tri-tip sandwiches and homemade tamales while providing supervision for everyone around them. By 9 a.m. the first bands begin to arrive, and the parking lot slowly fills with familiar yellow school buses. A hierarchy exists to designate jobs to each student, in which freshmen serve their time by picking up trash and monitoring admission to parking lots. Senior members, having graduated beyond freshman duties, are awarded with the best positions, such as judge runner (delivering scores and fetching food) and band guide (directing visiting bands from arrival to departure).
The judging process begins as each visiting band enters the stadium and follows marching band protocol. Under a strict time limit, the drum major (student leader/conductor) salutes the judges, performs its musical repertoire with visual effects, and leads the band off-field. The creativity put into each themed show is astonishing, with past shows performing everything from Sesame Street tunes to Bach.
When 3 p.m. rolls around, the stadium empties of its student workers and the band room overfills. It’s always slightly hectic as the students search for missing pieces of their uniforms or even missing members. Boys wander the main room, searching for misplaced white shirts and black socks while girls search for hair ties and someone to French-braid their hair. Somehow everything comes together in time, and the group heads outside to warm up.
As with any program of Santa Barbara High, the band has a history of traditions of its own. Once positioned on the field, the senior ceremony begins, with the band’s oldest members called forward one by one. Their parents beam with pride as they pin a yellow rose to their children’s chests, embracing them and wishing them luck in their last show. After many camera flashes, the seniors return to their positions and the show is underway.
After the awards ceremony is over, visiting bands head for the parking lot while our home band heads to the quad to perform a private performance for friends and family. It is a memorable event, shadows falling over the arc of musicians and darkness obscuring the flags and movements of the Color Guard. The show is played through for old times’ sake before seniors step out and the show is performed once more solely by underclassmen. This action is meant to represent the past and the future, showing seniors that their dedicated years of hard work allowed the students left behind to carry on. The group breaks in relief and congregates around the seniors, who are handed a mike and one by one deliver their final reflections on time well spent.
Excitement and relief runs through the band room as musicians return inside, hugging, talking, and laughing over memories with their oldest members. The season is finally over, along with all the time and work that went into it, and the future of the program is ready to move on.
Experience the last performances of the season at Peabody stadium this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visiting bands include San Marcos, Dos Pueblos, and Carpinteria High as well as many others from around Southern California. Tickets are $7 for adults, $3 for students and can be purchased at the gate.