The Marching Dons Play the Granada

SB High School Band Was First-Ever to Play in Renovated Theater

The Granada theatre opened its doors for the first time earlier this week, playing host to my very own Santa Barbara High School Marching Band.

A week earlier, SBHS band director Charles Ortega stood in front of the band to deliver the news of a surprising phone call: The marching band had been invited to play at the invitation-only, hard hat event last Tuesday. Ortega explained that the construction workers had cast a vote on which local performing group they would like to have at their opening, and the Marching Dons came away as the winner. “They didn’t ask for the jazz band; they didn’t ask for San Marcos; they asked specifically for the Santa Barbara High School Marching Band,” Ortega enthused. He continued that this would be “the first live music performance in the Granada.”

A surprising last-minute show, the band threw together a few songs and chased after its first semester students to return in time for the event. After just one rehearsal, the students donned their uniforms and climbed onto the bus.

The Granada’s race to the finish was so close that earlier that afternoon, the crew was still fervently working. Even with the finishing touches incomplete, the Granada’s long-awaited renovation did not fail to impress. “It was really pretty,” freshman flutist Ray-Lynn Cummings described, remembering the still-fresh smell of paint and a huge thank-you sign laden with construction worker’s signatures waiting in the lobby. “The ceiling was the best part:[and] everything was covered in gold!” she exclaimed. Sophomore clarinet player Aaron Capelli agreed, laughing that “some of the carpet wasn’t even finished-they had just tacked it on.”

Ortega shared his students’ enthusiasm, describing the space as extremely ornamental, like a palace. He was provided with a sneak preview of the entire building the previous week, and reported that he was impressed with everything he saw. The orchestra pit levitates to ground level, making it accessible to the disabled and perfect for loading large percussion instruments. The basement underwent an extreme makeover, formerly having just one hallway and a small handful of dressing rooms. During the construction, Ortega said, “the entire basement was gutted” and now lies beneath the entire building. The large space is full of rehearsal space, offices and dressing rooms, each complete with an individual bathroom. One office was already saved specifically for the conductor of the Santa Barbara Symphony.

Granada Executive Director Peter Frisch led Tuesday’s event, acknowledging all of the hard work that went into the new theater. “This space is fit for a marching band!” Ortega paraphrased, reenacting the band’s cue to burst through the doors. The drum line began its familiar cadence, and the audience turned in surprise to watch the band march down the main aisle and form an arc at the foot of the stage. The short program consisted of arrangements of “On Broadway” and “Granada Fanfare,” with the Color Guard waving gold flags to the music. After the audience of construction workers, dignitaries and local artists realized what was happening, they joined in enthusiastically, leaving the band with a standing ovation.

The band was thrilled, Ortega said. And for him, the opportunity was incredible. “[The Granada] is really going to change the caliber of entertainment in Santa Barbara,” he said, expressing his interest in upcoming shows. As Capelli pointed out, “It was really cool to be the first ones to play there.”


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