Saugus High School Band Serenades the Community While Pitching in with Fundraiser
It seems there’s almost always something musical happening at Saugus High School, and that’s due in large part to the 102-member Saugus Band and Color Guard, also known as the Marching Centurions, who provide much of the song that fills the air.
Band members cover a lot of ground over the school year and often wear different hats. They perform in the school’s Marching Band and Concert Band, the latter of which includes two performing concert ensembles, the Wind Symphony and the Wind Ensemble. Some band members also perform with the Jazz and Salsa bands. And then there’s the spring musical (this year, it’s “Mamma Mia!,” with performances May 1-4), for which the instrumentalists take to the orchestra pit to provide accompaniment. The Color Guard also keeps busy, marching with the band in the fall, and then later in the season taking part in Winter Guard.
At the center of this whirlwind of activity is Corey Whitt, the school’s Director of Instrumental Music, who notes that it’s a treat to work with the Saugus High music program.
“It’s a good time to be at Saugus,” he says. “We’re going to keep building and growing the program, giving students more opportunities, but retain the spirit of Saugus High School.”
This is the first year at Saugus High for Whitt, a Wisconsin native. Prior to this, he served as assistant director of bands at Perrysburg High School in Ohio and director of bands at Marshall Fundamental Secondary School in Pasadena. He holds degrees from Harvard University and Bowling Green State University.
While the year has busy thus far, it’s also been different than most. The Marching Band was set for its final competition of the season at Moorpark when crisis struck. The Borderline Bar shooting in Thousand Oaks followed by the Ventura County fire were two devastating blows to the community. For safety reasons the band had to forgo the competition and consequently, with an incomplete season, fell out of contention for regional championships.
“The kids didn’t get their final score,” says Whitt. “They didn’t have a finality to the season.”
But rather than sit it out they took a different track. In the music director’s words, “they made lemonade out of lemons.” On November 30, they performed a benefit for both the Thousand Oaks fire victims and victims of the mass shooting.
The Saugus Band played alongside bands from Thousand Oaks, Oak Park, Newbury Park and Adolfo Camarillo high schools. “It was an effort that helped so many families affected by the tragedy,” says the music director. “It also helped foster a network of strong community building and it vaulted the band into the next events on its busy agenda.”
And speaking of agendas, April and May will be big months for Saugus High musicians. Activities and performances include the Solo and Ensemble on April 13 where students will perform in various categories and get feedback from professional muscians. Also on April 13 is the WGASC Winterguard Championship, which is the culminating event for Saugus’ Colorguard. On April 24th the Jazz and Salsa Band will be performing at Vincenzio’s Pizza on Plum Canyon Road in Saugus from 6-8p.m. If you attend, be sure to mention you are there for the band so that some of the proceeds will be donated to the Band. Lastly, on May 10th there will be a band concert in the Forum at Saugus High School at 7 p.m.
The Jazz Band plays a variety of styles, from classic 1920s-1940s swing to more modern pop compositions, while the Salsa band performs contemporary and classic Latin jazz and pop tunes.
The jam-packed rehearsal and performing schedules are likely a dream come true for musically inclined students who get to show their stuff to their fellow students and the rest of the community.
But Whitt feels that, beyond developing students’ musical and performing abilities, band activities provide an extremely important building block for the future.
“It’s the experience that the students gain by performing and marching, handling responsibility and developing leadership skills,” he says. “That’s what’s most important.”
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