The Student News Site of Saratoga High School

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Marching band places third at Cupertino tournament

Isabelle Gecils
The trumpet section marches forward in the opener of “Call of the Unknown.”

As stadium lights at Cupertino High shone on the field, the crowd erupted as the school’s 200-member marching band played the last note of their 2023 show, “Call of the Unknown.” Adrenaline coursed through the field as the drum majors — seniors Cameron Nguyen and Gabriel Shyh and juniors Aiden Chen and Nathan Lee — conducted the final note into a powerful, awed silence.

At the Cupertino Tournament of the Bands (TOB) on Oct. 14, the band placed third overall of four in the 5A division with a score of 75.775, and percussion placed first in the individual judged category of the 5A division. The other competitors included Clovis North High, which placed first overall with a score of 80.15, Homestead High, which came in second at 77.85 and Cupertino High, which came in fourth with a score of 72.650. 

Although bands are also judged and awarded within individual musical and visual categories in their respective divisions, out of the 13 bands total that competed at TOB within the 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A and 5A divisions, the SHS band’s score placed them third overall as well. 

Lee credits percussion’s success to a rigorous practice regimen with rehearsals totaling three to four more hours per week than the rest of the band. In addition to regular Thursday night and Saturday rehearsals with the winds, they also have Monday night rehearsals. 

Compared to most other performing bands in the area, SHS practices about five hours less per week, allowing students the flexibility to participate in other extracurriculars and focus on academics. 

“I feel that given the amount of rehearsal that we had, getting the entire show on the field in that amount of time and still being able to compete with all these schools from Fresno and [those with 100+ more members than Saratoga] is impressive in itself,” Lee said.

Lee noted that a major shortcoming in the band’s performance was how members seemed to put all of their energy into the beginning of the show and their endurance wasn’t able to last through all four movements.

“There is a lot of pent-up energy [before performing] because you’re nervous and it’s a competition,” Lee said. “It’s the first time you see the football stands packed with people so I think the band performed pretty well given the amount of pressure.”

It is the first year since pre-COVID times that the band has taken their complete show to TOB. In recent years, they have performed their last movement standstill at TOB, playing the music without incorporating the field parts. Lee notes that this success may have come at the cost of other aspects like getting used to the pressure of performing for an audience and refining visual and musical details.

According to music director Jason Shiuan, the band’s 76 freshmen have played an immense role in influencing how the group performs as an ensemble, and the learning curve for them has been steep. For many members, this is the first year they have been in a marching band, as COVID restrictions prevented them from learning marching basics at Redwood Middle School. 

“I think just being in a competition setting the first time is what really gets freshmen to know what marching band is all about,” Lee said. “They have been giving a lot of effort, but now that they know that there are judges who are taking points off for everything we do and we’re being watched all the time, they have to start pushing themselves more.”

“Call of the Unknown,” this year’s theme, has four movements: an opener, a ballad, a percussion feature and a closer. The show was largely inspired by “Hymn of Acxiom,” a hymn written by Class of 1996 alumna Vienna Teng, who has achieved popular success as a pianist and singer and songwriter. Although the hymn speaks about surveillance by modern technology and the desire for human connection, Shiuan chose to take a different abstract approach when writing the show’s music. 

“We always have a show theme for our students,” Shiuan said. “This year, the idea is to push your limits and boundaries and explore something beyond your comfort level. And then once you do find that comfort, keep going because there’s still more unknown beyond that.”

The concept behind the show originated last April. Each year, Shiuan begins by discussing “big picture ideas” with percussion teacher Sean Clark, later refining the visual and musical details over the summer and throughout the season with educators such as color guard instructor Russel Crow, Visual Caption Head Katherine K. Rasmussen, percussion teacher Chavadith Tantavirojn and Clark. 

“One of the original ideas we had was simply just 360 or a revolution,” Shiuan said. “Something spinning, actually, was the original concept. But then, as we started to map things out, we felt like it was a little too abstract. We thought that the concept of [exploring] the unknown was more concrete.”

Apart from the reference to the hymn in Movement 1 by French horn soloist junior Ryan Sanders and in Movement 2 by junior mellophone player Anika Kapasi, the show’s music is completely original. 

With a woodwind trio in Movement 2 consisting of seniors clarinet player Jay Lim, flute player Eric Miao and saxophone player Vidur Sanghi, the show is followed by a percussion feature in Movement 3. The show closes out with faint references to the hymn amid a powerful whole-ensemble finale.

Shiuan worked with show composer Kevin Shah, combining their ideas to compose the brass and woodwind music, while Tantavirojn, Clark and arranger Shawn Glyde composed the battery and front ensemble parts for the show. 

After TOB, band leaders have shifted their focus toward competing at the Foothill Band Review, hosted at Foothill High on Oct. 28. They also put on their Senior Night performance on Oct. 21 on the football field in front of family members and friends.

For the next two weeks, the band will be making small adjustments and refining their choreography, and more importantly, getting in the consistent reps needed to showcase their true potential at each competition.

Apart from cleaning the drill part of the show, individual improvements will be crucial to making progress as an ensemble, as members need to become more comfortable with their own music and work on listening to each other to balance their sound, Lee said. 

“Getting used to tournament settings, learning how to conserve your energy and learning how to play with the ensemble will be our biggest challenges,” Lee said. “Knowing that we rehearse less, we need to focus on giving the energy to actually try to get better and learn that what we do is for something bigger than just ourselves.”

Donate to The Saratoga Falcon

Your donation will support the student journalists of Saratoga High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Saratoga Falcon