Saugus band director Corey Whitt conducts the song Bonds of Unity at the West Ranch High School Band and Orchestra Festival #1 at West Ranch High School Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

West Ranch High School hosts 2019 Band and Orchestra Festival

Despite there being over a half decade between some of their ages and/or experience playing their respective instruments, both junior high and high school bands and orchestras from across southern California are performing one after another at the 2019 West Ranch High School Band and Orchestra Festival.

Held annually on the school’s campus, the West Ranch music program hosts 36 student groups over the course of two days, with the first half of the invited bands and orchestras performing throughout the day on Tuesday.

The Saugus band performs at the West Ranch High School Band and Orchestra Festival #1 at West Ranch High School Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Of those performing at the festival, the William S. Hart Union School District makes up 21 of the total groups, and range from advanced/symphonic bands, to orchestras, to wind ensembles to concert bands. And of those local groups, six come from four of the Hart District’s junior high schools.

But, regardless of the age or experience gap, all groups are required to perform once on stage with a prepared setlist and a second away from the main stage, but a performance based solely on the students’ ability to learn, read and play a random piece of sheet music with only minutes to prepare.

“They’re given a random piece of sheet music” and they get only a couple minutes to prepare and play it, said Jason Marshall, the WRHS director of instrumental music.

Rancho Pico Junior High School Band & Orchestra director Peggi Stoffel conducts at the West Ranch High School Band and Orchestra Festival #1 at West Ranch High School Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

However, the springtime music festival does not pit groups into direct competition with one another, but rather each groups’ two performances contribute to their own overall score. A high rating from the judges can then qualify them for regional band and orchestra competitions later this spring, Marshall said.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Chris Downey, an 8th grade Placerita Junior High School percussionist. “And we got (the highest rank) from the judges.”

Marshall says the West Ranch festival has for a few years now maxed out the total amount of schools it can host, something he says is a testament to the work put in by the students, parents and volunteers year after year.

Saugus band director Corey Whitt conducts the song Bonds of Unity at the West Ranch High School Band and Orchestra Festival #1 at West Ranch High School Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“The maximum you can basically have is 36 groups, and while (the festival) started small, it just grew,” said Marshall, noting this is the 10th year West Ranch has organized their festival. “It’s a really great festival and I’m proud of what it’s become.”

The final day of the festival kicks off tomorrow at 11 a.m. with a performance by the Adelanto High School Concert Band and is scheduled to wrap up with a performance by the Hart High School Wind Ensemble at 8:30 p.m. For more information about the festival, visit the WRHS music program’s official website at www.westranchmusic.com.

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