On a Saturday in mid-November, the Clovis High School Marching Band and Color Guard finished a magical season with a crisp performance at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The musicians and color guard members presented their eight-minute show at the final competition of the fall. They then marched out of the stadium and gathered around an emotional Esmeralda Rocha Lozano. She’s the band director at Clovis High.
“You have totally won my heart,” Rocha Lozano told the students. “What you did today was breathtaking. Thank you for the best marching band season.”
A student’s voice called out: “Thank you, mom!”
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A bond often forms between teachers and students in the time-intensive marching band season. They spend more than 200 hours over three months mastering the intricate music and complex choreography of a competition show that qualifies as performance art.
With a show entitled “All the Queen’s Roses” — based on “Alice in Wonderland” — the Clovis High band and color guard marched to victory this season.
They placed first in their division at Western Band Association competitions in Clovis, Easton, San Jose and Long Beach. (Divisions are based on a band’s size.)
The WBA’s final competition for its top two divisions was held Nov. 19 at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School. In that competition, Clovis High:
▪ Finished second in its division, trailing the winning band by only 0.45 of a point.
▪ Placed seventh out of 25 bands from California and Nevada.
▪ Outpaced other local bands. “We were the highest scoring group in Clovis Unified School District and the highest scoring group in the entire Central Valley,” Rocha Lozano said.
▪ Won percussion honors. The Cougars’ percussion unit was judged the best in its division.
“Overall, Clovis High had an incredible season,” Rocha Lozano said.
Eric Figueroa, one of Clovis High’s drum majors, said the end of marching band season was “bittersweet. We’ve never had scores like this. It’s been awesome. But it’s a big time commitment, and we have school and stuff.” (Meagan Botero is the other drum major.)
A two-week band camp – with eight to 12 hours of practice a day – kicks off the marching band season before school starts in August. Band and color guard members then practice 11 to 13 hours a week through mid-November.
Color guard co-captains Kalista Vue and Saul Ortiz said the practices produce a quality show.
“It’s all worth it in the end because you perform for everyone, and people like the show,” Vue said.
Ortiz said it’s “amazing” to do the show: “I get to see my friends perform and have fun.”
Rocha Lozano said the “entire energy of this season” was the strongest she’s experienced since becoming band director in 2007. She said her staff had a common vision for this year’s program and worked cohesively.
“The process was collaborative, and you could see that by what was presented on the field,” she said.
That collaboration extended to students in Clovis High’s ROP program building props for the band’s show. “It was a community adventure we all were part of,” Rocha Lozano said.
With the season over, she’s happy that practice won’t fill so many evenings. “But I’m going to miss it . . . These kids made everything magical,” she said.
The commitment needed to lead a successful band program bumps up against personal time. And that is no small thing for Rocha Lozano, who has three children. She said her husband, Ben, is “a saint” because of his support. “I’m blessed to have him,” she said.
In the end, after the band and color guard had performed in the final show, Rocha Lozano said everyone’s hard work and sacrifice were something special. She paused, as if to savor the magical season, and added with emotion in her voice: “It’s all worth it.”