Thirty-five schools and 18 jazz ensembles are expected to take part in a revered community tradition Nov. 12 — the 52nd annual Central California Band Review at Merced's Golden Valley High School.
Middle school and high school students from the Merced County, Modesto, Fresno, Hollister, Santa Cruz, Livermore, Pleasanton and San Jose areas will take part in the event which unfolds in front of Golden Valley along Childs Avenue.
It's huge," Greg Christianson, Golden Valley band director, said. "It's probably the most important performance of the year, in front of a Merced audience. We have to be on our best; we take it very seriously."
Lt. Andre Matthews of the Merced Police Department estimates as many as 5,000 people may watch or participate in the band review. He said it's a well-behaved crowd that poses no problems at all for the traffic officers and Explorer scouts who help out.
"It's a great family activity," Matthews said.
Sandra Vierra, immediate past president of the Golden Valley band boosters organization, lauds the band review.
"What I find is so wonderful about the CCBR is that it is truly a community event," Vierra said, "entirely put on and participated in by the community. And the sole focus is our youth and how wonderful they are."
Donations come in
Vierra said this year the community stepped up despite difficult financial times with a slew of donations to cover costs of running the event. At least 300 people work on that day to make the band review a success, including about 70 parents.
Her son, Adrien, is a senior and the first chair and section leader for the Golden Valley Cardinal Regime trombone section. He said music is a great way for him to express his feelings and the band has helped him make friends.
"It's an important event that helps us show what the city's all about," Vierra said.
Karen Baker, with the city of Merced's Visitor Services division, said the band review generates $950,000 worth of economic impact for local restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations.
As the host band, Golden Valley does not compete in the band review. But they start preparing for it when school begins in August and it's the culminating performance of the year.
The Cardinal Regime will be performing "Centaur" by British composer Derek Broadbent, whom Christianson met while participating in the Northern California Honor Band several years ago.
The band review was first hosted by Merced High School and was held in downtown Merced and then near Merced College. It went to Madera for several years but returned to Merced five years ago.
Vierra said the usual field show competition was canceled due to poor enrollment. Many schools have scuttled their field programs because they are too expensive to run.
"Several schools actually signed up for CCBR but had to pull out because of the lack of transportation funding," Vierra said. "Unfortunately, music programs are the first on the chopping block with this financial pinch. For instance, Dos Palos did away with its music program entirely."
For the Mellos, the band review is a family affair.
Dolores Mello, 40, of Merced was in the Merced High School Marching 100 for two years when Christianson was the director. Her daughter Jessica was in the Golden Valley band for four years, graduating this year. Her sister, Maria Lara, was in the band with her for two years.
"The band review meant a lot for me and my sister," Mello said.
Golden Valley band booster president Dave Fossum said one amazing surprise for him has been the excellence of the jazz bands that will perform in the Golden Valley theater.
"The band has given my daughter and the whole family lots of fun, safe times," Fossum said.
Jazz begins at 7:20 a.m. in the theater and ends at 3 p.m. The parade between Watertown Drive and Parsons Avenue along Childs Avenue begins at 9:45 a.m. and ends by 12:30 p.m. The awards ceremony will be at 3 p.m. at the school's new Veterans Stadium.
Several competing band directors participated in the band review when they were students, including Daniel Baudino from Turlock, Anthony Perreira from Los Banos Junior High School, Michael Vasquez from Tenaya Middle School and Chad Humpal from Buhach Colony High School.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.