Elaborate pomp and pageantry
Last week's Marching Band & Color Guard Tournament was a delightful spectacle that deserves to be revisited:
Each individual band was allotted the same amount of time to assemble and then perform their routine. While these sights and sounds were impressive, perhaps the highlight was the following awards ceremony in which SRHS drum majors and color guard leaders presided over the presentation of gleaming trophies to leaders of the award-winning bands.
Leaders of the various competing bands were adorned in intricate marching band regalia, many donning full capes.
The SRHS leaders were cordial hosts, first displaying official salutes before awarding each trophy, then offering warm congratulatory handshakes and hugs. In response, leaders of each visiting band receiving a trophy presented their own extended salutes, most in highly-dramatic fashion.
Spirits were high and some of the bands received loud, well-orchestrated cheers and chants from classmates in the stands.
Near the end of the presentation ceremony, the tournament announcer revealed each of the trophies earned by SRHS. The SRHS leaders stayed at attention, unflinching as each of their awards was announced. SRHS won the 4A Division and earned top overall Music Performance, best Visual Performance, top Music Effect Performance and was the overall Tournament Champion.
Afterward, SRHS Music Director Russell Shedd gathered his troops on the field to speak to them about the dedication and focus needed on the road ahead as the field tournament season unfolds. Shedd was interrupted once as the marching band's student admirers shouted a cheer toward the SRHS tournament victors.
Schools scheduled to participate in the tournament included West Hills High School, West Valley High School, Oceanside High School, Junipero Serra High School, El Capitan High School, Valhalla High School, Patrick Henry High School, Lakeside High School and Scripps Ranch High School.
Producing such a tournament falls to the SRHS Music Department. Numerous parent volunteers and students helped make the whole event possible. Volunteers worked the concession stands, directed traffic in the parking lots and helped with logistics. School buses, trucks, vans and SUVs packed the campus parking lots Saturday. It was an enormous production.
“This tournament takes months to prepare,” Shedd explained. “We've had parents here since 7 this morning. It takes quite a while. We clean the whole campus. I mean, we take care of our school.”
It's no easy feat to win so many trophies at the home tournament, either. In fact, it might be more difficult since band members from the host school are responsible for nearly every aspect of preparation for the tournament. There is no such thing as home field advantage in marching band tournaments. The judges are skilled critics of band competitions, and they come from throughout Southern California, and a few from across the country.
“In fact, they're probably harder on us at our home tournament, and the kids are not really as prepared and focused as they would be because we've been working all day,” Shedd stated.
“In terms of our show, we started really working on our design back in June,” he said. “So, it takes 3-4 months of design.”
A good, original design is the key to success, according to Shedd.
“If you design the show well, the kids get it,” he said. “After that, it's just making sure the fundamentals are sound and then the kids want to learn it. So, if the show is designed well, it marches itself.”
Members of the Falcon Corps & Color Guard are dedicated and disciplined. Participation takes as much effort and training as any varsity sport. Local residents who drive by the high school some evenings might see the band on the field practicing.
“We put in about seven hours in a week; after school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and then Thursday evenings,” Shedd explained. “Sometimes we have extra rehearsals, but then during the school day we have class when the kids practice, and we have that during the week as well. Our band camp is two weeks in August, so that's 9-hour days.”
Shedd emphasized that the marching band is simply one part of the SRHS music program. He is also responsible for orchestra, choir, percussion ensemble and Winter Guard.
Shedd has been a teacher since 2000, and has taught music at SRHS since 2003.
“All of our ensemble programs are pretty successful,” he said.
All the hard work and focus seems to pay off, as many of the students pursue music beyond graduation from SRHS.
“I would say most of the students, when they leave here, they do play in some fashion,” Shedd stated. “I had a lot of students last year, they play in Cal's band, University of Colorado. Some go on to major in music. I've had several students leave that became music teachers. … My biggest class was 12 music majors.”
The marching band is headed to Hemet to compete in the West Valley High School Field Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 14.
“Then we have a couple weeks off, and then we start the state competition where we have San Clemente prelims and then, if we do well, we go to finals,” Shedd said.
Following Shedd's speech to his victorious students Saturday night, two separate groups of SRHS students stampeded toward the band and color guard members to offer enthusiastic congratulations. One of the groups appeared to be SRHS varsity athletes. More and more people with cameras appeared to snap photos of the jubilation, as if the band was surrounded by paparazzi. On this evening, members of the band and color guard were clearly the heroes of the high school.