What do you get when you cross the songs of Kansas with Guitar Hero?
A halftime football show performed by the Ramona High School Royal Alliance Marching Band and Color Guard that is “going to be a really fun show,” said band director Daniel James.
“We’re going to be playing the music of Kansas with kind of a Guitar Hero-rock band theme,” explained James.
The formations, he said, will be a loose interpretation of Guitar Hero, with one set displaying a kind of screen with colored dots as a visual, similar to what is shown on the music video game.
James arranged the music for the show, selecting three songs by Kansas, a progressive rock group, formed in the early 1970s: “Carry On My Wayward Son,” “Dust in the Wind” and “Point of Know Return.” The formations were created by Reed Richardson of Poway, who writes drills for groups nationwide, James said.
“It’s a really powerful show that requires a lot of energy,” said Drum Major John Villagrana.
Although the three songs were hits in the 1970s, the students were well familiar with the music, which Villagrana described as classic rock.
The band and color guard have been hard at work, getting ready for this halftime show and the upcoming marching band competition season. They recently participated in a two-week band camp where they spent each day practicing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
James said the members worked on marching basics outdoors from 8 to 10 a.m., then went inside the school for sectional rehearsals from 10 a.m. to noon, had an hour for lunch, worked on ensemble rehearsals from 1 to 3 p.m. and then went back outside for more marching basics from 3 to 5 p.m. During the second week, the hours outside were spent on the drills for the halftime show.
The marching band consists of 54 members: 42 students in the band playing woodwinds, brass and percussion, and 12 members of the color guard.
Chelsea Jauregui, the color guard captain, is enthused about the halftime show and the props that the guard will be using.
“I often feel the guard is the music explained through dance and color,” she said.
To symbolize the notes shown on the Guitar Hero video screen, the color guard will carry hula hoops above their heads. Each hoop will be covered with red, green or yellow fabric like the dots on the game screen, explained Jauregui. In another set on the field, the guard will use flags with guitars on them.
James said the guard will “spoof” a rock concert by holding something that will resemble a flame, similar to when concert-goers hold up lighters.
Band President Nicole Shellhammer said she is really excited about the show.
“Mr. James is putting a lot of visuals in this,” she said.
James has 30 to 35 pages of formations just for the song “Carry On My Wayward Son.” The designs on the field he said, “interpret the music and show off our marching ability.”
The show will continue to evolve during the football season. With the first game scheduled for Sept. 11, James said the halftime show will be about 1-1/2 minutes long. With each home game after that, the show will last longer. By the end of October, the band will be playing all three songs and the entire show will be complete in November, lasting about 8-1/2 minutes.
The show will also be the band’s routine for marching band competitions during October and November. There will be five competitions: Oct. 10 at Poway High School; Oct. 17 at Rancho Buena Vista High School; Oct. 24 at Mt. Carmel High School; Nov. 7 at Mission Hills High School; and Nov. 14, the Marching Band Open Series (MBOS) championships in Corona.
Competing in Division A, which is for bands no larger than 60 members on the field, the Royal Alliance took second place at the championships last year. This year, James said, they hope to take first place.
“A lot of people don’t understand the intensity on the field,” said Villagrana. “You really want to win. This year we want to go for it.”
According to James, in the last three years the band has won first place in 14 of 20 competitions. In 2007, the band was the division winner in a Las Vegas tournament and was the only band to receive superior ratings, which is the highest, in both music and visuals.
To pay for tournament entry fees, instrument repair and the drill arrangement for the show, the band has been conducting fundraisers. A spaghetti dinner was held this month and a Little Caesars Pizza Kit fund-raiser is going on until Sept. 2. The frozen pizzas make a convenient meal, said James. Anyone interested in ordering these frozen pizza kits may 760-789-4087.
Band isn’t all work and no play. A swim night, a drive-in movie night and an “end of band camp” party were all scheduled in August. Such activities “build connections between students,” James said.
Leadership is also a component of band. To be a section leader, band members must go through an intense process, according to James. He said they must turn in grade sheets, have a one-on-one interview with him and write an essay. The positions are not limited to seniors, but rewarded by ability.
Some of the members hold a couple of positions. In addition to being drum major, Villagrana is in charge of the equipment crew. Shellhammer, who works with the booster club to coordinate events, is band president, the flute section leader and fills in for Villagrana, if necessary.
“When he’s busy, I’m the next one to take his job for the day,” Shellhammer said.
Daniel Bustamante is the parade drum major. Yanik Thomas is the high brass captain and also the Webmaster.
Other members serve in the following positions: Chelsea Jauregui, color guard captain; Moises Vargas, battery captain; Logan Bolitho, pit section leader; Jeremy Kubiak, low brass captain; Trevor Pomicpic, saxophone section leader; Sarah Callan, clarinet section leader; Hannah Jones, librarian; Jenet de Weerd, photographer; Colleen Curtain, publicist; and Ricky Lundberg and Cody Branom, quartermasters.
Band isn’t only about marching competitions, halftime shows and parades. In the winter and fall, there are the Advanced Symphonic Band, the Jazz Band, the Winter Drumline and the Winter Color Guard.
The Jazz Band is a separate class and performs concerts and participates in competitions in the spring. A large competition is held at Cal State Fullerton where the jazz band has received excellent ratings.
The Advanced Symphonic Band also competes in the spring and there is a large festival for bands and orchestras at the Poway Center for Performing Arts.
“They have received superior ratings for the last four years,” said James. “That’s the highest rating you can get.”
The Winter Drumline competes against drumlines from all over Southern California. The American Drum Line Association holds competitions in March and April, usually in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, said James.
While the color guard competes with the band in the fall, the Winter Color Guard competes separately from January through April. The all-girls’ group uses dance, flag twirling, rifle and saber work, and other props in their routine.
“There are multiple components they actually have to demonstrate per show, which is about four minutes,” James said. “They have improved a lot.”
James, who has been directing the Ramona High School band for seven years, is assisted by several instructors and coaches: Matt Lane, marching instructor; Torrey Goldberg, color guard instructor; and Ken Serfass, Stuart Holmes, Ethan Jacobsen, Harry Hutchins, and Lucy Williams, all instrumental coaches.