Students from local schools came together in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to celebrate High School Band Day on Oct. 7. Fourteen high school and middle school bands with University of Southern California (USC) alumni band directors were invited to play during halftime with the USC Trojan Marching Band at a football game versus Oregon State University.
San Gabriel High School (SGHS) Marching Band had the opportunity to participate in this event for the first time in many years.
“It’s been quite awhile—at least six years,” band director Tammy Cognetta said. “In some ways [it’s] like you never left.”
The bands arrived promptly at 8 a.m. to rehearse their halftime songs: “Star Wars,” “Tribute to Troy,” “Fight On,” and “I Love LA 2017.” At halftime, “I Love LA 2017” was conducted by guest conductor and mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, to celebrate the return of the Olympics to Los Angeles in 2028.
The administrators of High School Band Day called this year the most “ambitious” year; it was the first time the schools invited were given this much music to perform.
“The pieces we played on the football field were very ambitious and helped us grow in terms of musicianship,” assistant drum major Andy Lam said. “The ‘Star Wars’ medley was the hardest of the pieces because it introduced some musical concepts that were rare in the music we normally play.”
During halftime, 1,400 uniformed students marched onto the field to join the USC Trojan Marching Band in their performance. Together, this made for a fortissimo fortress of music and entertainment for the audience.
“I was just really happy to be able to bring the students to the game and have them experience playing at a halftime show with a world famous college band,” Cognetta said.
After the football game, the USC Trojan Marching Band put on a post-game performance for staying audience members and school bands. They played familiar songs practiced among SGHS Marching Band members, including “Brooklyn,” “Kids Aren’t Alright,” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”
Cognetta hopes that members of SGHS Marching Band take something away from High School Band Day—that band and music don’t have to stop at high school. Being part of a band is like being part of a family and allows members to make lifetime friends.
“I actually was able to have band be a part of my college experience. It turned out to be the highlight,” Cognetta said. “I think that you can keep music a part of your life, and college band experiences [are] one of the best ways to do it.”