Get starstruck at fourth annual CHS musical concert

Claremont High School Instrumental Music Program’s fourth annual Concert Under the Stars will this year include a new star, a highly advanced, artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible high-tech modern crime fighter. And perhaps its human counterpart.

The free concert, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, September 30 at CHS’s football stadium, will feature the El Roble Band and Orchestra, CHS String Orchestra, CHS Symphony Strings, the CHS Marching Band and, somewhat inexplicably, the KIIT Car from the kitschy and beloved NBC television show Knight Rider, which ran from 1982 to 1986 and starred one David Hasselhoff.

So, what do “The Hoff” or his TV car have to do with Claremont High School’s Bands and Orchestras?

“One of our students, her family owns the KIIT car, and they know David Hasselhoff,” explained Melanie Riley-Gonzalez, CHS’ Director of Bands and Orchestras.

Mr. Hasselhoff is a maybe for the annual fundraising event, but attendees will be able to have their pictures taken with the heavily modified 1982 Pontiac Trans Am regardless.

Kitsch, kidding and ‘80s TV nostalgia aside, the Concert Under the Stars is a big deal for our high school musicians.

“I love this event, because, number one it gives the marching band an opportunity to play their field show before they head off to competition,” said Ms. Riley-Gonzalez. “And it also gives our orchestra—who have their fall concert coming up in October—a good way to get their nerves out and showcase some of their talent; And it also helps to get people excited about their concert.” The marching band’s first competition is October 7 at Mayfair High School in Lakewood.

Ms. Riley-Gonzalez is in her eighth year at CHS. Over her tenure the program has seen a remarkable expansion, from 55 musicians in band and 19 in orchestra to this year’s group of 124 and 83, respectively. She’s been so successful that she’s now working with CHS musicians only. In years past she’d bounced around between the high school, Claremont elementary schools and El Roble Intermediate School.

“We’ve really maxed out our capacity,” she said. “So [CUSD] said ‘We really need you to be full-time at the high school.’”

The program has expanded because she’s worked hard to grow it, putting in long hours with young Claremont musicians of all ages over the past seven years. Now that these youngsters are reaching high school age, all those seeds are sprouting, so to speak.

“It’s really a result of me being able to work with the students at the middle school and just through really recruiting,” Ms. Riley-Gonzalez said.

She’s just not one to toot her own horn, but Suzy Tineo, CHS Instrumental Music booster board member, is fine with it. “She is passionate about the program and getting the kids involved and playing at different events,” Ms. Tineo said of the director. “She has grown the program so much from when she came to CHS.”

The Concert Under the Stars will see orchestra and band kids manning the KIIT Car photo booth, with a donation bucket nearby to benefit CHS instrumental music. In addition, proceeds from the sale of burgers, churros, slushies and other food items will further assist the program.

The bands will be playing Gordon Goodwin’s “Jazz Police,” Fred Ebb’s “Cell Block Tango” from the musical Chicago, and sections of Michael Giacchino’s music from the animated film, The Incredibles.

The orchestras will tackle an assortment Halloween-themed music.

In addition, El Roble’s new band and orchestra director Taylor Estep will be making his Concert Under the Stars debut.

Proceeds from the event have typically been about $1,000, Ms. Riley-Gonzalez said. “Only my salary is paid through the district, so with this event, and parents’ fundraising, that’s how we are able to go to all our competitions and get to perform out.”

The concert also helps motivate the musicians and adds some performance seasoning, she said. “It’s really showing off where we’re at right now. If [attendees] come to a football game or a concert later, we’re hoping that everybody will be able to see the progression of our improvement as we go along. I know for El Roble this is one of their big first performances, so it’s getting those kids to understand what performance is and how to deal with the nerves when you’re out there. And hopefully it’s encouraging others to be involved in music; If there are little siblings or younger students that come, we want them to get inspired.”

Hasselhoff or no Hasselhoff, the concert will be a great showcase for CHS’s increasingly popular instrumental music program, Ms. Riley-Gonzalez said, adding “we just want the community to come out.”

The weatherman says it’ll be clear and in the upper 70s Saturday, with nighttime lows in the 50s, so attendees might want to find those long forgotten items in their closets called “jackets.” Also, a seat cushion and blanket might help make CHS’s bleachers a little more posterior friendly.

In the meantime, “keep your scanners peeled” for signs of The Hoff.

The CHS Concert Under the Stars, starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 30 at the school’s football field. The event is free, and no tickets are required. More information is available via email at

—Mick Rhodes


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