The Saugus High School Marching Centurions have qualified for the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association championships, providing one last crescendo for a group of seniors who have been performing together since junior high school.
In August 2018, a group of nine students gathered for the inaugural meeting of their seventh-grade band class at Arroyo Seco Junior High School, said a release from the Saugus band. “Little did these budding musicians realize that beyond discovering the world of music, they were setting out on a transformative journey — one that would bond them together for years to come,” the release said.
Fast forward to November 2023, having endured a global pandemic, and after experiencing the ongoing transition of being led by five different band directors over the past six years, the nine teenagers will converge one last time on a football field in Riverside to perform in their final marching band performance together at the SCSBOA Division 3A championship.
With Rodrigo del Rio at the helm as head drum major, the original band members Noreen Ross, Devin Burns, Addie Hester, Brady MacDougall, Will Wofford, Martin Takishita, Jacob White and Aidan Sandoval, along with tuba player Bobby Roybal and color guard captain Chloe Vergel de Dios who joined the group in high school, face the challenge of the championships with excitement, and a little nostalgia.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to close out my marching season going into championships with friends that I’ve known since junior high,” Ross said in the release.
MacDougall agreed. “I still remember meeting all of these incredibly talented people when I was just 12 years old. At the time I didn’t really have any friends to count on, and this small group changed that almost immediately,” he said. “The Marching Centurions program has truly changed my goals, dreams and myself as a person. I’m very thankful I get to close this chapter with some of my closest friends and teammates.”
The seniors will join the entire band and color guard this weekend competing against 11 other bands from across Southern California.
“It is definitely really exciting to be able to go head to head with the best in our division,” del Rio said in the release. “I’m hoping (expecting) good results for us because I know everyone in the band and guard have been working so hard and it’s been paying off. With this being my last run, it’s bittersweet. I know the band will do great and I’ll definitely miss being in the Marching Centurions.”
While the Marching Centurions are celebrating landing in the top 12 of just under 40 Division 3A bands, the season got off to a challenging start. In July, the group was led by Visual Caption Head and Color Guard Director Rob Guzman, as the administration searched for a new band director.
It was on the first day of school the students met the new Director of Bands Evan Block. “Guided by his unwavering commitment and leadership over the past few months, the students have begun to feel what consistency and a deeper connection to the community can do, returning earlier this month to the 39th annual Hart Rampage, hosted by Hart Regiment, as well as playing for crowds at Gilchrist Farm’s Harvest Festival, and Highlands Elementary, where a few Marching Centurions had attended several years prior,” the release said.
“I was super excited to be playing at Highlands Elementary School this year for Saugus not only because I went there way back in the day, but Highlands was the place where my music journey started,” Takishita said in the release. “In third grade, there was this assembly where these guys came in and started drumming on huge oil containers and other things people would look at as junk. Little 8-year-old me thought the drumming thing was the coolest thing ever and that’s what really kicked off my journey as a musician. I just found it crazy that with all the experiences I have now, like going to Washington, D.C., and doing band throughout middle school and high school, that I was going to be performing right back where my journey began.”
Ross added, “It was really nice going back to my elementary school and performing for them because it feels like I made a complete circle from where I started to where I ended up; and knowing that we potentially inspired kids to become future Marching Centurions.”