This is … A Marching Band Mom’s Squee

Where’s Amanda? There’s Amanda!

Watching the London New Year’s Day Parade was like playing a Marching Band Mom version of Where’s Waldo?

That’s my ‘Waldo’ (daughter Amanda) in the foreground of the photo to the left, marching tenor sax next to her BF, Stephen Matzas. This was a major league squee (“There’s Oak Grove!”) peppered with moments of frustration (will those blooming hosts never stop talking and let us hear the bands play?) and nostalgia (I wanted to go back to England so badly I could taste the curry, cottage pie, and tea).

We TIVO’d the parade from a feed on RFDTV—a channel targeted to rural America. I can only imagine that’s because farming communities are a hotbed of marching band activity. Most of the bands were from high schools and colleges back east, though I think every high school in Clovis and Fresno have competitive marching bands of different sizes.

James Logan – Terra Cotta Warriors

Amanda’s school—Oak Grove—is one of only a handful of high schools in Silicon Valley that have music programs like this and they are almost entirely supported via volunteerism, donations, and fund raising like you wouldn’t believe.The exception to this is the 310 member marching band and color guard fielded by James Logan High School in Union City, which is a well-funded arts school. And they are a wonder to behold and hear, I must say.

As I commented to Amanda recently, with her older siblings, the high school was a place we went to drop off, pick up, and go to see plays. With her, Oak Grove and its band programs are the center of our daily lives. The only place I spend time more often is the Baha’i Center.

Anyway, you can also see the LNYD parade on the feed from the site. Amanda and the band make their first appearance at about the 2:20 mark (that’s 2 hours and 20 minutes). They do their performance for the grandstand near the very end of the parade at about the 3:15 or 3:20 mark.

2016 tenor sax section

The site has a profile of each band in the parade (all from the US). Oak Grove’s profile includes a video of their 2016 field show, The Playground. I watched it for the tenth time or so just for fun. It was a great field show—very playful, which suits the band ethos.

The way the parade worked was typical. The bands played on the move, stopping four or five times to play an entire piece for the crowds lining the parade route, and to allow the color guard to do their thing. Our guard placed first in the WBA championships this year (for their size of band), so the guys are understandably proud of them. When they reached the grandstand where the hosts were seated, each band or borough entry had two minutes to perform.

Chris Moura and the Oak Grove Marching Band and Color Guard

Most of the bands (with one notable exception) scrambled into the performance area, hastily set up and executed their 2 minute piece with marching routines that they’d probably had only a couple of weeks to learn and practice. The exception was one of the University bands which obviously did this often enough that they had a tight marching routine to go with their well-executed medley of music. Chris Moura, Oak Grove’s band director made an interesting choice, here: OG was the only band that marched cadence into the grandstand area, set up in neat sections and played a straight up Christmas carol with no choreography. They focused on the music and they sounded good. They let the color guard do all the dancing and somersaults. Then, instead of running out of the area, they turned and marched cadence out again.

OG Band demonstrates Cadence Face

I have to ask Amanda if Moura told them they should wear ‘cadence face’ all the way through the parade. Though Amanda assures me they were having lots of fun, they looked as solemn and businesslike as ever. Moura has rules about this. In competition, the band marches cadence all the way back to their bus; at football games, likewise, they march in and march out all the way back to the band room before they’re allowed to break order.

This ranks, in my book, as one of the Wonders of the World, and if Chris Moura isn’t the king of all Cat Herders, I’m the Queen of England.

2 thoughts on “This is … A Marching Band Mom’s Squee”

  1. Hello,
    I am a parent of a James Logan band member. To clear things up, James Logan is NOT an arts school. They are also not well funded. The entire program is donation and fundraiser-based. They have not had uniforms for two years since the band has grown too big to wear their old ones, and still do not have even close to enough money to buy new ones. The uniforms that you see in both the 2017 & 2018 shows are uniforms that were handmade by a handful of parent volunteers. They took out so many hours & days of their time to create them. It’s insane how much work they put into it, considering they had to make 340+ uniforms by hand. The material was all bought by both the parents and additional costs added to the band fee that are requested for students to pay at the start of each season. It’s a common assumption that Logan is a well-funded arts school just because they have good and large music programs, however they are 100% nowhere near that. It’s all done due to immense support by the community.

    Thank you for the compliment, though! I just wanted to share this since I came across this. I hope you can clear this up with any other band parents you may know that think the same thing.

    P.S. I love Oak Grove!

    1. I stand in awe. Those Terracotta Warrior costumes were amazing, as was the Logan marching band and color guard. I tip my hat to the students and the parents who support them, and make a general appeal for folks who have family, friends and acquaintances who are sacrificing so much time and energy to their high school and middle school band and guard programs to chip in and help with material and personal support.

      These kids are hard-working and dedicated to their art and to each other. We need to recognize that and support it. They’re learning so much about cooperation and teamwork in these programs and I am blown away by how much energy and effort my daughter and her cohorts in the OG program put out on a weekly basis—hours of rehearsal in sometimes inclement weather, whether they’re feeling quite like it or not.

      I so wish the wildfires had not cut their field season short this past fall. I know it was especially hard for Logan because they were unable to host their home show where they make a large part of their funds for the year. Better luck with Winter Percussion, and I hope we get to see your excellent performances next field season.

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