By Jason Liu
After nearly two years, the South Pasadena Tiger Marching Band and Color Guard has returned to the field for competition with a strong showing recently at Mission Viejo High School, bringing home a second-place finish as well as the caption award for best percussion.
After two long years away from judging, the marching band is back, however with a different look than prior years. Students now wear masks, instruments have bell covers, and social distancing guidelines and rules are strict as safety comes first.
Since the entire 2020 marching band season was canceled due to the pandemic, members in both the sophomore and freshman classes have never marched in a competition up to now. With just half of the ensemble having prior experience, high school bands across the country have been presented with a new challenges.
SPHS’s unit entered the school year knowing that much of its efforts would have to be dedicated toward teaching many new members the basics of marching in a band.
Each year, every section in the band loses students to graduation. But this year, the SPHS percussion section was hit particularly hard, shrinking from 25 members in 2019 to just 14 in 2021, losing a number of key members.
The current battery percussion section, or drumline, has eight members, with only three having prior drumline experience. Numerous additional practice sessions were held to get newer drummers acquainted with the unique mental and physical demands of marching percussion. Over time dramatic improvement was seen, prompting one SPHS percussion instructor to say, “It was night and day.”
In the pit or front ensemble, the other half of the percussion section, it was a completely different story but there were other challenges. The front ensemble received no new members from the current sophomore or freshman classes. With just six members, the front ensemble was extremely undersized for a band the size of South Pasadena.
But the small front ensemble persevered, came together and quickly found its way. Before its initial competition front ensemble section leader Charlie Miller said, “This is the first time I’ve come to a first competition of the season with a lot of confidence.”
Mission Viejo Field Show Tournament, October 2
South Pasadena High’s Tiger Marching Band and Color Guard made the 90-minute trip out to Mission Viejo High School and performed its newest show, “A Simple Gesture” and earned an overall score of 62.925, a strong baseline to improve in future competitions.
With a 72.5 finish, the Tigers’ percussion score was the highest on the day, netting SPHS the “Best Percussion” award in the 3A division.
Miller described the progress of this portion of the band as “truly incredible,” adding, “I am proud of all of us. I am continuously impressed by the sheer amount of work everyone put into the music, and I think that effort really shows in our performance.”
Julie Davila, the competition percussion judge, also passed along her positive thoughts, saying, “Congratulations for a lot of terrific things happening percussively here. Proud of you guys coming back out in 2021 with a program that strong.”