The fabled Live Oak Emerald Regime marching band in 2022 made a strong comeback from a lull in musical and performance activities imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic over the previous two years.
The band’s new director, Manuel Mendoza, started in early fall with a two-week band camp just before the school year started. Now, Mendoza, his staff and the high school Emerald Regime performers are preparing for the band’s first annual “Journey of a Lifetime” trip for the first time since before the pandemic.
“In the spring [of 2023], we’ll be embarking upon our next JOLT to New Orleans, the notoriously vibrant city on the Mississippi River that was the birthplace of jazz,” Mendoza said. “It’s as famous for its music as it is for its history, architecture, culinary experiences, paddle wheel and steamboat excursions and so much more. The students will experience music in ways they’ve never done before, and we have the unique opportunity to actually perform in New Orleans. If numbers are a reflection of our band member’s enthusiasm for The Emerald Regime, it’ll explain why we’ve already grown in just the last month or two by nearly 200%.”
Live Oak Emerald Regime has a proud history that started in 1970 with 36 band members and 10 color guard performers, with Michael Rubino and Cricket Hathaway as directors. Over the years, the band has traveled and performed on previous JOLTs to Hong Kong, the Soviet Union, Finland, England, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Washington, D.C., and more, says a press release from Live Oak Emerald Regime.
The Emerald Regime is the only West Coast band to have won two Grand National Championships, including distinctions for best winds, best marching and best general effects. The local high school band has performed twice on the Great Wall of China; was invited to play the Macy’s Day Parade in New York City; and captured a Grand Sweepstakes Award, says the press release.
But with the pandemic in March 2020 came a sudden uncertainty about the future of the Emerald Regime and local high school band programs. Public health regulations on indoor gatherings made it nearly impossible for bands to conduct regular rehearsals, let alone live performances.
The Emerald Regime’s previous director, Jason Locsin, stepped down in June 2021 to pursue a Master of Arts degree, the press release continues. About that time, as authorities gradually lifted the public health restrictions, Live Oak and Sobrato high schools joined forces to create a single, unified Morgan Hill Marching Band. That ensemble was led by Sobrato band director Gregory Chambers.
Band interest and activity steadily grew, and Mendoza became the Emerald Regime’s new director in August 2021. By fall 2022, the group began holding weekly Saturday rehearsals as a cohesive group, for the first time since early 2020.
“Fall 2022 officially started our year of rejuvenation and revitalization,” Mendoza said. “When I took over as director, The Live Oak Marching Band was down to a record low of only 18 members. Trophies are great, but this year our number one priority is truly foundational—it’s about rebuilding a strong and cohesive group.”
Despite this, however, the band has taken first and second place in its category at each competition it has entered so far this year, says the press release.
No stranger to the Emerald Regime, Mendoza has served in various roles for the band, including as instructor and head of the visual program. Earlier in his career, Mendoza joined and later became part of the staff at Vanguard Music and Performing Arts, says the press release. He recently helped bring home a win for the Vanguard Cadets at the Open Class World Championship international competition.
Mendoza is engaged to be married and his fiancee, Rebekah, is Color Guard Director at Lynbrook and Color Guard Instructor at Monta Vista High School.
Mendoza, who thinks of his band as a family, extended his thanks to Chambers and the Sobrato band for bringing the two groups together last year.
Mendoza feels that Emerald Regime is a “second home” where students can feel accepted and included, share a passion for music and excel in competition—which brings feelings of success and lots of fun. “That’s what makes students want to work hard, and that’s how they’ll become more in sync with each other musically as well,” Mendoza said. “Passion gives excellence a reason to live.”
Jan Rasmussen, Live Oak Emerald Regime Booster President, praised Mendoza for his vision and respect for the past.
“Mr. Mendoza is a visionary director who brings the historical perspective of where the band has been in line with where he wants to take it forward, and he connects so well with the kids,” Rasmussen said. “The students work extremely hard and do so willingly because they love being part of something so special. They’re excited about growing under Mr. Mendoza’s direction. Band is a triple threat: students learn to excel in music and competition; they learn how to reach a deeper level of teamwork while bonding as a family or small community within a larger one; and they also become the students who excel academically.”
Mendoza kicked off Emerald Regime’s year with its usual pre-pandemic intensive two-week summer band camp. Plans for the rest of the season include Western Band Association competitions, Regional Championships, Disneyland, football and sporting events, and numerous other concerts.
Mendoza has also recently started a new marching band and percussion ensemble at Britton Middle School.