Michael Vasquez calls the Central California Band Review one of the shining star events in Merced, with some of the best student musicians showcasing their talents for local audiences.
The 53rd annual band review takes place Saturday at Merced's Golden Valley High School with 33 middle school and high school bands parading along East Childs Avenue. What started as a tribute to veterans has blossomed into one of the premier events on Northern California's band review circuit.
"It (the review) showcases the arts and everyone looks forward to it," said Vasquez, Golden Valley's new band director. "There are some great bands coming, some of the finest in California."
The parade along Childs Avenue begins at 10 a.m. but a jazz competition featuring 21 ensembles starts at 7:25 a.m. in the Golden Valley auditorium. Music aficionados also will be treated to a 6 p.m. field show in Veterans Stadium on campus.
Jim Bonstein, president of the Golden Valley Cardinal Regime band boosters, said the band review is quite an undertaking and takes an army of volunteers to pull off. "It's a great event for the kids," Bonstein said. "It's neat to see bands coming down Childs Avenue."
Chris Martin is the band review chairman. Band boosters look at the event as an opportunity to bring the community together. The event, started in the early 1960s by the late Fred A. Silveira, is near and dear to a lot of people, Martin said.
"This is a tremendous program that showcases the talents of young musicians from throughout the region," Martin said. "We are fortunate to live in a community where the selfless efforts of numerous volunteers helps to share the memories for hundreds of spectators and young participants."
Martin, a special education teacher at Livingston's Selma Herndon School, has a daughter, Rachel, who is a senior and plays the flute in the Golden Valley marching band. Golden Valley is the host band and not competing for awards in Saturday's review.
Vasquez said other local band directors are excited about the parade. This year there will be seven more bands participating than last year and Vasquez expects the number to grow in future years.
In past years, the parade was along West Main Street, then West 18th Street, on Yosemite Avenue near Merced College and then at Golden Valley.
Greg Christiansen, who retired last year after directing the Golden Valley band since 1994, will be there Saturday, but just to watch his son Matthew, an eighth-grader, play the alto saxophone with the Hoover Middle School Huskies.
"It will be a different feeling," Christiansen said. "I love watching kids perform, and I will really enjoy it. The band review has been around a long time, and it's a really important part of the community of Merced in my mind."
Not only will the band review provide welcome music to Mercedians on Saturday, it also will be a significant economic benefit.
Marie Mendoza, development associate for the city of Merced, said it is estimated the band review pumps about $350,000 into the local economy as visitors purchase gasoline and patronize local restaurants.
Vasquez said he wants Golden Valley musicians to put on the best show they can for their hometown. He has been involved in the band review for 19 years, first with the Hoover band and later as a student musician at Merced and Golden Valley high schools.
He was band director at Tenaya Middle School for nine years before replacing Christiansen this year.
Middle school bands competing include Rivera Middle, El Portal Middle, Our Lady of Mercy, Livingston Middle, Hoover Middle, Yolo Middle, Weaver Elementary, Winton Middle, Tenaya Middle, Cruickshank Middle and Los Banos Junior High.
High school bands include Patterson, Orestimba, Central, Santa Cruz, Chowchilla, Livingston, Sunnyside, San Benito, San Ramon, Washington Union, Hanford West, Benicia, Buhach, Livermore, Pitman, Cesar Chavez, Atwater, Mission San Jose, Merced, Armijo, Concord and Golden Valley.
Junior high awards will be announced at 1:30 p.m. in Veterans Stadium, with high school awards revealed at 4 p.m.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.