Some days he could pass as the most modest person in South Pasadena. Howard Crawford keeps information quiet better than some of the best CIA agents or private detectives on the planet.
Accolades, acclaim, high recognition, even the mere mention that South Pasadena High’s award-winning marching band was recently ranked the 17th best in the state gets a “yeah, that’s pretty good,” from the humble Crawford, the school’s longtime music director.
Yet, make no mistake, he is extremely proud of the bands and orchestras making the music.
In a quiet, unassuming manner, Crawford casually says, “the kids work hard,” which usually translates into strong showings in front of judges on weekends during the fall.
Out of state band directors, who are nationally accredited adjudicators, evaluate high school marching band competitions and provide the rankings, explained Crawford, noting that the best of the best bands from northern, central and southern California recently showed off their top performances recently at a major statewide competition in Fresno.
A few years ago, the SPHS band director, who also doubles as the school’s orchestra conductor, said the Tigers finished 12th in the state. “It is what it is,” said the even keeled Crawford, who doesn’t get too high or too low when it comes to how his band fares in competitions. “I don’t focus on first place, second place. We never talk about that. We just focus on doing the best we can, having a great entertaining show and letting the chips fall where they fall.”
Overall this year, the South Pasadena High marching band has finished fourth and fifth in many competitions, according to Crawford, pointing out, however, that down the stretch of the competitive season SPHS “really stepped it up” and put together some of its best performances ever.
That’s about as much as you’re going to get out of him, quickly recognizing Crawford rarely boasts. “We compete against some schools that have 3,500 students,” he explained. “We only have 1,500. Other schools have more band members, more middle schools to draw musicians from. We have one middle school. So, if you have five middle schools feeding the high school, you can see what we’re up against at competitions.”
Naturally, it’s a little unbalanced, which makes it easy for Crawford to say, “17th in the state isn’t too bad.”
South Pasadena High competes in a local concert band performance each year that is scored by unanimous superior and superior or excellent. “We’ve been unanimous superior all the time,” said Crawford, who has been the band and orchestra director at South Pasadena High for 28 years.
Two pep bands, one performing on Mission Street and the other on Fair Oaks Avenue, played holiday music and school fight songs last Saturday morning for shoppers. “It’s our way of bringing some music to the community and for us to raise some money for the program,” said Crawford, as people came by, tossing coins and dollar bills into opened instrument cases. Financial support helps with travel and new instruments. “We’re grateful for the donations.”
Along with the pair of bands playing lively tunes last Saturday, new this year was a string ensemble performing classical music.
It all helped to make the season bright. Some of the musicians performed with the orchestra last Thursday night during a holiday concert in the school’s auditorium.
Reviewers gave it high marks. So did Crawford.
“They were fantastic,” he said. “They really nailed it.”