CHS, El Roble bands preview fall season

The strength of the instrumental music programs at El Roble Intermediate and Claremont High School was on full view on Saturday during a free “Take Note!” performance held at the CHS athletic field.

The evening show featured performances by the marching bands and orchestras from El Roble and the high school, culminating with a presentation of the 3-part field show the CHS Marching Band will be showcasing in upcoming marching band competitions.

The music began at sunset, with the day’s final rays lighting up CHS’s athletic field, featuring turf installed just last year, to good effect. The high school’s drum line let the crowd of 200 know they were in for a lively evening with the spirited “Zero Cadence,” following by the infectious “Land of a Thousand Dances.” The Claremont High School color guard provided visual interest, twirling metallic, rose-colored flags to the band’s rendition of the ‘60s pop song.

Next came the El Roble Orchestra performing composer Soon Hee Newbold’s ethereal “Mythos” and Donald Brubaker’s “El Toro,” which evoked the drama of a Spanish bullfight.

Band instructor Melanie Gonzalez—who serves as conductor for each of the 4 ensembles highlighted at the “Take Note!’ show—emphasized her pride at how well the middle-school students pulled off these compositions.

“There are a lot of 7th graders in the orchestra, and the last piece has flats,” she said. “As you know, orchestra instruments don’t like flats. It’s only September, so to play something like this that early in the year is amazing.’’ 

This is Ms. Gonzalez’ first year at the helm of the marching band and orchestra at El Roble. She stepped into the post when the previous music teacher Brandon Johnson, who won the Claremont Unified School District’s Spotlight on Excellence Award in 2011, was asked to go back into the Army.

The kids in the marching band begged her for a new fight song, Ms. Gonzalez said. She agreed by introducing the fight song of Michigan State, which has been ranked by ESPN as one of the best fight songs of all time. The El Roble band showed their own fighting spirit in performing a rousing version of the Spartan’s legendary call-to-action.

At the Saturday show, the El Roble Marching Band was fresh off having performed 2 days before during Claremont Day at the LA County Fair. Ms. Gonzalez took a moment to share a compliment she overheard as the group marched by. “Is that the middle school band? They’re fantastic,” a bystander was heard to exclaim.

There was much more music to come, but the event wasn’t just about tunes. There were also numerous opportunities to support the music programs. Band boosters sold hot dogs, chips, soda and snacks as well as fan swag like Claremont Wolfpack windbreakers. People in the crowd had a chance to purchase a $2 “shout-out” to band and orchestra members, words of support that were announced over the PA system by emcee and CHS band booster Marcus Dowd.

The crowd was also encouraged to participate in a few opportunity drawings. These included the Claremont Educational Foundation’s annual Prius raffle, with some of the proceeds going to the CHS booster board, and the Take Note! campaign, through which a 48-inch TV will be given away in December.

The weather, which was still warm enough for short sleeves, but significantly cooler than in weeks past, let the audience know that fall is here. When selecting musical pieces for autumn, Ms. Gonzalez told the audience, she tends to lean toward fast-paced, lyrical pieces.

For the CHS orchestra, these included composer Kurt Mosier’s “Ichabod’s Walk: 2 Scenes from the Hollow,” an eerie nod to Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and 2 particularly epic compositions: “Icantations” by Richard Moore and “Mystical Towers” by Jeremy Woolstenhulme.

Other highlights of the evening included the CHS Marching Band neat execution of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man and the El Roble Intermediate School Orchestra’s patriotic medley, “American Pride.”

While the CHS Marching Band assembled for its field show, members of the other ensembles left the field and filed onto seats on the bleachers. These included Ryan Vuong, a 7th grader who plays flute in the El Roble Orchestra. Ryan has had a great time in the band so far.

“Mrs. G. is really fun and encouraging,” he said.

The grand finale was the CHS Marching Band’s field show, marked by up-tempo music and the graceful maneuvering of the burgundy-clad band across the field. The color guard and majorettes were ready to add kinetic appeal, twirling rifles, batons and glimmering banners.

At the close of the evening, Mr. Dowd thanked attendees for contributing to a successful first-time event, saying, “I hope this becomes a tradition.”


—Sarah Torribio


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