by Bethania Palma Markus, LA-based education writer
A busted tire didn’t dampen the moods or motivation of 27 music students from the Locke Academy Wind Ensemble who performed at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association in Irvine on March 20.
All arrived with plenty of time to spare at Beckman High School, where they had time to warm up with new euphoniums and French horns purchased with a generous grant from the Employee Community Fund of Boeing California. The festival was a small step in Green Dot’s goal to return the school band to its former status as one of the most acclaimed in the country.
“This will be Locke’s first concert band festival in many years,” said band director Matthew Cotton. “It is a great opportunity to check our growth and set new goals for the coming year. Students aren’t used to performing at a concert festival where so much detail is asked of them.”
Attending the festival with bands from all over the region gave students the chance to hear other groups and get feedback on their performance. They got to try out their new instruments playing March of the Irish Guard arranged by James D. Ployhar, Interlochen Theme by Andrew Balent, and Three Scottish Folk Songs by John Edmondson.
After a 30 minute warm-up session, the Locke musicians performed for three judges, then received a 30-minute clinic on their music.
As trailblazers of the new “show band” style, the Lock High School marching band was once legendary in Southern California. It was a regular presence at Los Angeles Rams games and the Rose Parade. But over the past forty years, the band has become a small, though not insignificant, reflection of the challenges facing the larger community: a political failure to nurture the culture and arts of South Los Angeles combined with a dramatic drop in the funding and resources necessary to do so. By the time Green Dot assumed responsibility of Locke High School in 2008, the band was a shadow of it’s former self.
Seven years later, the school having made dramatic gains in graduation and college acceptance rates, Green Dot recruited Mr. Cotton to lead the band back to national acclaim. Aside from donating money for new instruments, Boeing employees leapt into action last summer to renovate the neglected band rooms.
The festival was the Locke band’s first in many years, but the future will doubtlessly hold many more as it continues to gain strength. With a celebratory meal, the band called it a day, acknowledging that it was just the first step on the journey back to glory.