UPDATED Oct. 20 with additional competition results provided by the host band that had not been received when the original story was posted.
Marching bands from throughout California — including four of the Santa Clarita Valley’s own — displayed visually aesthetic and compelling performances during the annual Wildcat Classic Marching Band Competition.
Canyon High School, Valencia High School and Golden Valley High School competed to win, while West Ranch — which, as host, did not compete — showcased an exhibition before the winners were announced.
Golden Valley earned Tournament Sweepstakes and Percussion Sweepstakes, according to a statement released by the West Ranch band boosters.
“We call the high overall scores for the tournament ‘caption awards,'” the statement said. “So (Golden Valley) also received the following caption awards: High Music Performance, High Visual Performance, and High Combined Effect.”
Canyon’s display of large neon signs that spelled the word “bent,” along with Valencia’s journey through Route 66 and Golden Valley’s fiery display were among the visual highlights of the competition. West Ranch’s exhibition also gave a nod to the beauty of Japanese culture.
Judged by the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, the results for the local high schools were as follows:
Placing first was Valencia in the 2A division with a score of 61.5, closely followed by Canyon in second at 59.5. Golden Valley placed first in the 3A division at 67. While West Ranch did not compete, it earned a score of 75.5, which was the highest mark in the competition.
Valencia also won Auxiliary Sweepstakes for its color guard performance, meaning the color guard had the highest score for the entire tournament, the West Ranch statement said.
Rod Schueller, director of instrumental music, discussed the process of leading up to West Ranch’s annual competition:
“This is our annual show through the SCSBOA circuit. Today we have 10 bands here and we’re covering classes 2A, 3A and 4A from around this area. First band went on at 5 p.m. We are the last band tonight — we perform an exhibition,” Schueller said. “We do get scores and commentary, which count toward finals, which happen in November.”
The judges score based on six categories: music performance, general effect (music/visual), visual performance, penalties, auxiliary and percussion. Due to the lingering impact of COVID-19, this year’s registration is a bit less compared to the usual number of bands drawn in, but still boasted double digits.
“We’re on the road back to recovery after [COVID], but we’re glad that we had the show this year,” Schueller said. “We’re just grateful that so many people are supporting this activity, music making and these young performers. We’re looking forward to the rest of this season.”
Senior Anderson Vo, 17, who has been a West Ranch drum major for two years, discussed his trajectory as a musician, dating back to junior high school.
“I started back in seventh grade. Once I went to high school, I did marching band. My freshman year was the pandemic, so we did marching band online in June. Once we finally got to go back to school, my sophomore year, I did marching band all until my senior year. I’ve been a drum major for two years now, but I used to march baritone,” Vo said. “It’s been a really fun experience. I love conducting, and this activity has prepared me for life in general after high school, and that has really improved my work ethic and discipline.”
With goals to audition for Drum Corps International, a world-class marching band ensemble, Vo is focused on ending his senior year strongly.
“This activity is looked upon as just an art form, but it’s much more than that. It changes people’s lives. It really does prepare you for the world after high school, along with figuring out who you are through this activity,” Vo said.
Vo discussed a common misconception about conducting, such as it being easy, but drum majors are often responsible for keeping their own time ahead of the music played, since there is often a lot of sound delay.
“Conducting is 10% of the job. The other 90% is facilitating, making sure every member of this band is comfortable and knows what’s going on. A drum major is supposed to be expressive and should be doing cues and making more passionate and expressive movements with the entire body, not just the hands,” Vo said.
Canyon students also reflected post-performance, as trumpet section leader Diego Melara, 16, trumpet member Ayden Mariscal, 15, saxophone member Vince Phan, 17, and baritone Erik Estrada, 16, discussed plans for the near future.
“I think today we did really well. We get to practice by 7 on Thursdays. We march. We’re putting in our best right now and working super hard. Last year wasn’t that great, but this year we’re really showing off,” Melara said.
“We had a pretty good run today, but I feel like we definitely need more work. We are putting in a lot of work and there’s a lot of dedication that goes into what we do,” Mariscal said.
The hard work that the Canyon students put in was reflected in the score they received Saturday night.
“Today was a nice, sunny day, and it was a beautiful competition. I think as a band we did really well. We excelled and I’m hoping to see the other bands perform and do just as well,” Phan said.
“I think it’s really understated how small a marching band show is — you put in like a lot of time for rehearsal, just for five or a six-minute show,” Estrada said. “I want to try being rough on myself to push myself to be better, but there’s more to come. I’m just excited for what’s next.”