Marching Band and Color Guard: 9-4 in 8-5

By Owen Andersen

*8-5 means 8 steps in five yards, the standard marching distance*

“We start off as a bunch of separate parts, but by the end of the season we’re a cohesive machine,” -Eisen Small, senior and veteran trombonist.

With their first competition on October 8th, the Westmont Warrior Regiment Marching Band and Color Guard prepares to take the field for another season. Performing their show Broken Hearts, a three movement West Side Story medley, the band and guard will compete throughout the first semester. Practicing twelve hours a week, the band and guard rehearse on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. Proceeding the standard schedule, the program’s Band Camp lasts for a week and a half in July, going from 9-4 each day, teaching students marching basics while rehearsing the show. Additionally, the band and guard remain present for every home football game, playing popular ‘pep tunes’ and performing a segment of their show during halftime. For every touchdown the Warrior team claims, the band rises from the stands; drumline helms the countoff, and the echoes of the Fight Song explode through the bowl. Demanding excessive physical, mental, and emotional commitment, both the band and guard pose extensive prowess in musicality and marching. 

Christiana Mandler, head of the Westmont Music Department, has officially been directing for the past seven years, overseeing the band specifically for 15 years as an instructor. Mandler praises the programs as a method for new Warriors “to become familiar with the school campus and students of all different grades before school starts. It creates a different type of support system to those who are new to the school.” In cohort with Mandler, Tony Rivera, a professional musician and longtime member of SJSU’s music department, has served as Assistant Director for the past three years. Like many of the students, Rivera reveres marching band as a whole for the “comradery” aspects, stating that “marching becomes a family experience.” Under the leadership of Mandler and Tony Rivera, both the  Marching Band and the Color Guard boast a myriad of profoundly experienced, committed instructors.

In total, there are 49 members of the program, 12 of which are in Color Guard, making the Warrior Regiment a 1a class marching band. Of those 49, 12 are seniors, 11 juniors, and 10 are on the leadership team. At the top of the leadership podium stands the Drum Major: Bianca Shultz. “It is my job to lead the band on and off the field,” says Bianca, “ I make sure marching band is a welcoming environment for individuals to grow and learn.”  The Drum Major’s position implies leading all members through general activities (i.e. stretching, musical warm ups), teaching marching technique, and conducting the band during performances. Though the Drum Major position bares hefty responsibilities, Shultz says she enjoys the job, and the program as a whole, reflecting on football games as a microcosm of the overall experience: “All of the sudden as drum major I stand up, the band starts the fight song, cheer and dance start performing and were all just enjoying this big community event that we’ll never forget.”

While the band typically prioritizes the musical and movement factors of performances, the Color Guard “adds the visual element of the performance,” as told by veteran Guard member Amanda Bradshaw. Color Guard captain Anna Haguro describes Guard’s in-a-nutshell synopsis as “performing with the Marching Band, we will show our flags, guns, and sabers, as the band plays.” This often includes intricate dance choreography in tandem with inventive and extravagant flips and tricks. 

The Marching Band is composed of seven sections (discluding Color Guard): flutes, clarinets, low brass, saxophones, trumpets, Drumline, and the Pit (mallets and miscellaneous percussive instruments). Each section falls under the jurisdiction of student leadership, like seniors Maya Bernstein and Ethan Chuang, coalescing in the creation of a balanced, unified sound. Like any of Westmont’s Marching Band shows, Broken Hearts showcases the seamless blending of every section, intertwining intersectional melodic coordination with individual musical finesse. 

Of course, the Westmont Music Department can’t be mentioned without one key feature: Drumline. Practicing an additional three hours on Tuesdays, the Drumline remains a core pillar of the Westmont identity. Famously, our bombastic percussionists were the first in our district to partake in the Drumline tradition of blasting “Jig 2” at football games, with various degrees of jaw dropping tricks performed in addition. Proudly, the Westmont drumline sets the tempo and steals our hearts.

Consistently, the Warrior Regiment has been praised for the accepting atmosphere members have cultivated. Alan Lu, senior, leader, and veteran sousaphone player, praises the “interconnectivity and diversity” of the program’s culture. Drum Major Bianca adds in, mentioning an intense “sense of community and family as a group.” The tightly woven bonds of the Marching Band and Color Gaurd have allowed the existence of the program to sustain itself for over twenty years; Sophomore trumpeter Taiyo Hamburg states “Everybody here is so welcoming that it makes you become welcoming.”