As you’ve walked through the hallways on the Benicia High School campus, you may have caught glimpses of blue and yellow band jackets during football Fridays, before big band review days, and during special holidays. The band and color guard are a group of students bonded together by the pursuit of music, led by band director, Mr. Patrick Martin, and assisted by Mr. Aki Ross, and color guard instructor Mr. Ben Wilkinson.
On November 11th and 18th, the Panther Band and Color Guard attended two band reviews at Merced and Fairfield. There, they were evaluated for musical and performance proficiency by experienced judges appointed by the Northern California Band Association that organize band competitions in Northern and Central California and Northern Nevada. Categories of competitions include concert band (symphonic/wind ensemble), Jazz band, winter guards, field competitions, band reviews, percussion, and solo drum major competitions.
Certainly a band isn’t a band without a drum major. A drum major is always at the front of the marching band, the first musician to step off for the block. Saxophone player Andrew Sante (12) compares the position of drum major to “kuya” (older brother), since he’s the peer leader to 120 fellow musicians. To keep his cool as the thought of being front and center can be nerve-wracking, he would “blast Playboi Carti and Lil Pump songs dummy loud to settle the nerves.” Though the role of drum major is chosen by Mr. Martin, he doesn’t take his responsibilities for granted.
When the Panther Band and Color Guard go to band reviews, they are assessed for their collective musical achievements as a group (and solos for Jazz and wind ensemble, a class you audition for). Teamwork is key to success for the Panther Band. Trumpet player Kyle Awayan (10) describes it best, “It feels great whenever we win at a review, and it pays off after all the marching practices and rehearsals we have together.”
Band reviews can be daunting, but they don’t faze the Panther Band and Color Guard. At Merced they won ‘Sweepstakes’ for almost everything– Jazz band, parade, music, Grand sweepstakes, and 1st place for Double A Auxiliary. Sweepstakes is the highest accolade a band can win.
As for Tournament of Champions, it too is a prestige invitational band review highly prepared for by marching bands all over NorCal; the Panther Band and Color Guard swept in parade grand sweeps, marching, music, band director category, 1st in Jazz, Concert, Auxiliary, Wind Ensemble, and 2nd in Symphonic. To win Grand sweepstakes your band and color guard must have showed excellent showmanship and performance skill on the block and music stage. Drum Major Sante (12) recounts how proud he felt, “Being able to take home all those big trophies for our school is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
However, the band doesn’t just win awards, no. They practice, practice, practice, and they mentally prepare themselves and follow traditions that are set by section leaders before them. For example, the color guard would head to Double Rainbow, the saxophones would eat Mexican food, the trumpets might eat at a McDonald’s, and the flutes would do a snack exchange. One time Awayan (10) and the trumpet section went to McDonald’s before a band review and all partook in 300 chicken nuggets.
Band is a class that isn’t taken lightly by the students in it. For example when Charles Metzler (9) went to TOC, he pinpointed the cause of his nervousness to his Jazz solo. But he says, “That was it because I knew that everyone else was able to do their part and all I had to do was do mine and having people’s support helps a lot .”
However difficult band may seem on the outside, it’s “really fun”, claimed color guard student Zoe Babot (10). If you’re interested in tossing guard rifles or flags, Babot encourages you to try it out and ask for equipment. If you’re leaning towards playing an instrument, flautist Maddie Franz (11) advises that “Mr. Martin expects the best at all times and would want you to continue on the tradition of being the best.”