The Live Oak Emerald Regime Marching Band and Color Guard perform Saturday at Gilroy High School during the Gilroy Garlic Classic Marching Band Competition.

Just outside the band room in a small grass courtyard on the Live Oak High School campus, drum section leader Daniel Haroutian is getting a one-on-one lesson on his snare drum from percussion captain head Chris Carrasco.
Although practice for the marching band doesn’t officially begin for another half hour, the 17-year-old senior – along with his fellow drum-line members – are working hard to perfect their musical craft.
Haroutian and the Live Oak Emerald Regime were preparing to perform in their first Western Band Association competition, which took place Oct. 12 at Gilroy High School. The Emerald Regime placed first in the opening event and have won three straight events to open their 2014 campaign since capturing the state championship for the fifth time in six years.
“We definitely take it seriously,” said Haroutian, unstrabbing his drum harness and taking a break to discuss a craft that has consumed his high school life since freshman year. 
The four-year band member has grown into his role as section leader, making sure to keep his fellow percussionists “in check” so they “never slack off at practice,” he said. Besides the goal of defending the marching band’s state crown, Haroutian has his sights set on taking home a “Best in Section” drum title before he marches on to college. The WBA Championship is scheduled for Nov. 23 at Koligian Stadium in Fresno.
“When you put on this uniform, you feel like you’re in this super suit,” declared Haroutian.
He’s not alone, as each of his 60 band members get the same rush of pride and invincibility as a musical soldier in the Emerald Regime.
“I’m proud to be a part of that,” said 17-year-old senior Kevin Hartman, the baratone section leader.
He held his silver brass horn in one hand, pressing his fingers down on the piston valves. “It definitely puts the pressure on us being defending champs.”
Band director Jason Locsin – a 2002 LOHS grad and Emerald Regime alumnus – knows that feeling all too well. 
Back when Locsin was a student, the marching band was already more than 100 members strong. 
Right off the bat, he’ll tell you that he thinks the Emerald Regime is the most decorated and hardest working of any competitive sports or academic teams at LOHS.  
The band’s rich, 43-year-old history includes a school-record 16 state championships as well as two national titles.
Originally called the Live Oak High School Marching Band and Color Guard in 1970 under the leadership of directors Michael Rubino and Cricket Hathaway, the Emerald Regime grew from 36 band and 10 color guard members in its first year to 146 strong in six years. The group has performed at the Great Wall of China; the Macy’s Day Parade in New York City; the former Soviet Union; Singapore, Malaysia; and London, England.
“The best part about this job is the kids,” said Locsin, who splits his time as music director between LOHS and Britton Middle School, where there are now 150 student musicians participating. “The kids here are phenomenal…That’s why we have what we have here.”
Through years of painful state budget cuts to education – when electives like music and art are always the first to be targeted – the Emerald Regime, which receives no funding from the district and relies heavily on its booster club that hosts bingo at Britton every weekend, has persevered.
Its members and their families also help by working in Gourmet Alley during the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, securing more than $11,000 in 2013.
“It is definitely one of our cornerstone fundraisers and a huge part of the success of our program,” said Locsin, noting that the Garlic Festival funds are used for buying new uniforms, replacing instruments and transportation fees.
Locsin, the Regime’s fifth band director, described his band as “underdogs” because they compete in the 2A class – by choice – against bands with larger numbers.
2A is the category for bands with 61-80 students. Typically, a band of the Emerald Regime’s size would compete in the 1A class, which is designated for bands of up to 60 members.
“It’s hard to match the intensity and passion of these kids,” said Locsin, deferring all credit to his students for the band’s continued success. 
He noted last year was the first time in five years that the band wasn’t functioning in “survival mode,” as the influx of participants at the middle school level, which had waned prior to Locsin’s arrival, is usually a driving engine that feeds students into the high school program.
“The bands here (at LOHS) and Britton are really thriving now,” Locsin said. 
That success was on full display Oct. 12 as the band marched in unison onto the GHS field for the opening Gilroy Garlic Classic competition. The Regime, full of confidence and sparkling with school pride, enjoyed a first-place mark of 70.80 in the AA Class. They followed that up with a first-place score of 75.50 at the Oct. 19 Valley Christian Quest Classic in Hayward.
“The kids love playing at football games, too,” Locsin noted.
While the LOHS football team is making a title run of its own, the Emerald Regime won its third straight competition Nov. 2 at the Dublin High School Irish Band Show.
For as frequently as the band performs and competes – the group averages roughly 10 appearances a year – hauling all the musical equipment, uniforms and props used by the Color Guard “is like transporting a small army,” Locsin chuckled.
The band’s 2013-14 repertoire – which changes with each school year in order to pose new challenges to the members – includes three songs: Frederic Chopin’s “Prelude in E-Minor”; David Gillingham’s “With Heart & Voice”; and an original piece highlighting the percussion section put together by the band’s two drum instructors Brian Sears and Chris Carrasco.
“We know the kids really well so we were able to write the piece to the individual level of each section,” explained Carrasco. “I’ve been teaching for almost a decade now and these kids I have now have more drive and work harder than any kids I’ve worked with.”
Judges grade the performance using a point system (100 being the top score) in five major categories: Effect, a combination of musical and visual effect (an overall evaluation of how everything comes together); Music, based on playing ability (are they in tune, crisp and working together?); Visual, footwork and posture of members; Auxiliary, the color guard (are the flags waved and spun in unision?); and Percussion, an evaluation of the percussion pit and drumline.

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