The crisp fall air, roar of the crowd, and crack of the pads as players smash into one another are all sensory heralds of football season, but one seasonal sensation usually overlooked by all, except by fond parents and alumni, is the stirring music of the marching bands.
Though they likely will never have the celebrity talented high school football players enjoy while walking through their school’s halls, band members often work just as hard as their on-field counterparts. Preparation for the football season and half-time shows are hard work, not for the faint of heart, according to Mike Rubino – who created the Live Oak’s Emerald Regime Band with his wife Cricket in 1968.
“By the time these kids get back from a band camp, from all the shows, they have committed a tremendous amount of time,” Rubino said. “You can feel their enthusiasm, see how much they enjoy what they do. There is definitely an excitement there. And the parents, the supporters feel it as well. The parents are what keep it alive. It’s a total support system. They also recognize the value of what these kids are involved in.”
The commitment occurs during the camps traditionally held in August. Band leaders also meet every week during the summer to plan the week-long band camp, which required students to be at the school from 8am until 10pm, and to work out the band’s half-time show.
This year, there is another marching band in Morgan Hill: Sobrato High School, which opened last school year with 9th and 10th grade students, has three grade levels now and a marching band – the Sobrato Swing Band.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” director Erik Kalish said in the last days of the band’s summer camp. “I’ve been impressed with the work they’ve done during this week. This was a group of kids who had never marched before. They’ve really come a long way.”
Emily Tewes, a junior at Sobrato, saxophone player and section leader, said she was excited about the camp.
“I really thought it was awesome,” she said. “I knew it was going to be work, but I was like, ‘All right! Let’s go for it.’ This is our first year marching, and I think we’ve done a good job.”
Emily said working with the other leaders over the summer, they developed an enthusiasm for the band and for what they were working on. When it was time for band camp in August, she said, their level of enthusiasm was high.
“It was funny, because we had so much stuff planned, and the rest of the band the first day was just kind of absorbing it all, not really sure,” she said. “The first night, at the end before we went home, we did our thing where we say, ‘Who has the best band in the land?’ And everybody else leans back and shouts out, ‘Sobrato!’ The other kids were like, not sure what to think. But they saw the leaders do it, they got enthusiastic, and soon they were all doing it, too.”
For years, Live Oak High has boasted an award-winning marching band in the Emerald Regime. The group has sent Morgan Hill kids to perform and be ambassadors for their town all the way around the globe. Director Greg Bergantz has lead the Emerald Regime Band for two years now.
For both bands, the bond that working together so many hours creates is very important.
Rubino said that’s one of the things that makes band special for kids.
“It’s a real unique thing,” he said. “They spend so much time together, they take the new guys under their wings, they help not only with band but with homework, with life. That’s why we call it a family. It lasts forever. We still have Emerald Regime alumni that are very much a part of the organization. We have parents whose children have long since graduated from Live Oak that still remain active in the Emerald Regime Booster Club.”
One of Sobrato’s new leaders, Mikki Goslin, a junior and leader of the band’s troupe of dancers, the Swingettes, said students are thriving in the atmosphere of the new group.
“We are working together like one big family, and that’s something I didn’t expect,” she said. “It makes a difference, you know. I was thinking the camp was going to be really long. When I first heard about the times, my first thought was, ‘Wow, that’s early!’ But now I’m glad we had so much time together. I really think it was worth it.”
The Sobrato band, which travels to away football games with the team, performed their first show in uniform Friday night at the varsity game against Harker Academy at PAL stadium in San Jose.
The Emerald Regime travels to shows almost every weekend during the marching season. The walls of their band room are lined with trophies, and they host their own Emerald Regime Invitational each year in San Jose.
As for the idea of competition between the two bands, Kalish and Bergantz agree that is not the kind of atmosphere either bands promote.
“They are very different kinds of bands,” Kalish said. “Each has very positive things, does very positive things for kids. The idea is to expand their world in several ways, and both high schools have that focus.”
Marilyn Dubil covers education and law enforcement for The Times. Reach her at (408) 779-4106 ext. 202 or at [email protected]