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The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest in the country, serving children in the second most populated city in the U.S. and representing the incredible melting pot and vast number of kids heading to public school each day in Los Angeles. LAUSD is also the only school district with its very own marching band, and the music they make is second to none.
Marching to Glory
Bringing honor and fame to high schools and families across Los Angeles, the LAUSD All District High School Honor Marching Band was formed in 1973 so that talented high school kids could come together and represent the school district at the prestigious Tournament of Roses Parade each year. A number of high schools, including Granada Hills Charter High School, Locke High School and William Howard Taft had participated on their own in years past, but coming up with the 100 minimum number of marchers required by the parade proved difficult for each individual school to maintain. The concept of a unified marching band was floated by John Deichman, the district’s Director of Performing Arts and the idea resonated with district heads, principals and teachers alike. The vision of bringing brass and percussion musicians together from high schools across the LAUSD was solidified and a musical tradition born.
In it to Win it
The band, fondly called All City by kids, has specific requirements for members. Kids must be currently enrolled in a LAUSD high school, with no exceptions made. They also must consistently maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. Students from schools with music and auxiliary programs are required to be participants. If the school does not have any such program, exceptions can be made; thus assuring that all kids who want a shot, get a shot.
Geared toward providing performance opportunities for kids while providing an opportunity to generate positive relationships between schools, the brass wind and percussion driven All City band is diversity incarnate, bringing together kids who might never meet otherwise, all committed to excellence, teamwork and marching together as one.
A Labor of Love and of Music
With a goal of complete representation from more than 60 high schools, preparations and training for All City take the entire school year. Extracurricular programs managed by Beyond the Bell Music and Entertainment Education provide a foundation for high school music teachers and kids by holding master classes prior to auditions and rehearsals as well as workshops after school. Bus transportation is also provided for the kids, which eliminates a barrier to participation for many, as well as creating a socializing opportunity for band members.
Marching to Success
An incredible opportunity, band members perform at Disneyland’s Magic Music Days and other highly promoted and televised special events. Past years have included performances at the Super Bowl and Governor’s Inauguration in Sacramento.
Being part of All City is about more than mastering an instrument and getting sore feet. Students are provided with specialized instruction and placed into groups with kids of similar proficiency levels, enabling them to become stronger players and more confident in their overall school performance. The ability to function as part of a whole group with a shared purpose is buoying, cementing character traits like responsibility, persistence and collaborative spirit. As kids become better musicians and team players, they also become better students and happier people.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.