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Morgan Hill
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February 9, 2023

Tradition runs deep with Emerald Regime

At her first practice with Live Oak High School’s Emerald Regime marching band in July 1983, Suzanne Passantino was introduced by a friend to an upperclassman on the drumline.
That night, Suzanne, who was an aspiring member of the band’s color guard section, logged in her diary: “I met Tim Downer and know he will be a major part of my life some day.”
The two began hanging in the same circle of friends throughout their high school years, but never went out on a date or got romantically involved.
“It was just a feeling I had at the time,” said Suzanne, who had two years still remaining when Tim, a snare drummer and percussion section leader by his senior year, graduated in 1984.
“I loved it. I didn’t know how to read music, so this is how I got in,” said Suzanne pointing to her old wooden rifle that she used to twirl around in color guard.
Tim went on to attend UC-Santa Barbara, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, while still remaining close to his high school bandmates and connected to the Emerald Regime as a percussion instructor.
“You work so hard to create so much precision in a show and you’re so proud of that,” described Tim of the pride he felt in being a member of the Emerald Regime (his drum section won best in state in 1984). “We worked really hard to be as good as we could be.”
Suzanne, whose brother Mark and sister Raeanne also played in the Emerald Regime, graduated in 1986 and went on to earn a degree in early childhood education. Meanwhile, Tim shifted career paths and attained his teaching credential from San Jose State University.
Somewhere along the way, a romance blossomed between the two high school friends—who had continued to hang out with their Emerald Regime brethren even after graduating Live Oak, and still do to this day. They were married in 1995.
“We remain very close to so many of them. We got our lifelong friends from this program,” said Suzanne Downer, who, along with her husband Tim, has two sons that are currently playing in the Emerald Regime.
The next generation
Anthony, 17, is a senior trumpet player anxious to make one final mark in his four-year run on the storied Emerald Regime program, while Ryan, 14, is a freshman drummer proud to be carrying the family tradition. He was stoked last week as he was looking forward to the Nov. 18-19 national championships in Fresno.
“All the great friends I’ve made through the band (are what I’ll treasure most), and I love playing music,” said Anthony, a section leader still coming to grips with the fact that the championship weekend was his last as a member of the Emerald Regime.
“I want to get a medal…We won our freshman year (in our classification) and now I want to end it the way we started it,” Anthony added last week before heading to Fresno. As for the Regime, they finished third in their class at Nationals this year.
Ryan knows music and marching band will remain a major part of his high school years and provide lifetime memories.
“It’s definitely pretty cool (being in the same program where my parents met) and sharing some of the same experiences. Now, the whole family has done it,” said Ryan, who puts in close to 20 hours of practice per week. “I get a feeling of proudness for what I’ve done and what everybody had done to put the show together (when we’re out there competing.)”
Suzanne, who taught preschool for 14 years, and Tim, a fifth grade teacher at San Martin/Gwinn Elementary School who also leads its music program, remain involved with the Regime. Tim is part of the Pit crew, helping to set up the band’s front ensemble for competitions and football games. Suzanne breaks out the old family spaghetti dinner recipe for the entire band during summer camp, and has organized the December fundraiser at Guglielmo Winery for jazz band.
“It’s just really exciting to see them do an activity that we got so much enjoyment from,” Tim said. “It’s not just about music and marching. It’s about life skills and preparing for the rest of your life.”
Suzanne was “extremely excited” when her boys decided to join the band. “It’s just kind of like living it all over again,” she said.
The music has not stopped for the Downer family. Tim, who taught marching percussion at Valley Christian from 1995-2007, is part of the Regime alumni drumline and has played with them in every Fourth of July holiday parade since 1979.
“It’s really fun and makes you feel part of the community,” Tim said.
Family traditions built through Regime
The Downers (Tim, Suzanne, Anthony and Ryan) are just one story of many family traditions built around the Emerald Regime marching band, which has been going strong for nearly five decades. The band’s rich 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) Rubino, the Emerald Regime grew from 36 bandmates 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.
Current band director Jason Locsin, a 2002 LOHS grad and Emerald Regime alumnus, has had a number of family members play in the band, some who played alongside Tim and Suzanne Downer.
“I know the (Downer) family really well,” said Locsin, who attended SM/G while Tim was a teacher there. “He’s an awesome drummer. His ability and love of music spills over into his kids.”
Locsin’s mother Kathy (Hackett) Locsin played flute with the Regime until 1983 and her twin sister Beth was in color guard at that time. His uncle Bart Locsin (Class of 1976) played alto sax and his aunt Kim Arca played clarinet. Jason’s two brothers were also drummers: Derek Locsin (2009) and Nick Locsin (2012).
“A lot of generations of many different families have come through this band,” Jason said. “Almost all of my current students have younger brothers or sisters who I hope will join as well.”
This year, the Emerald Regime has 120 members, the most since the 1990s. It’s something that Locsin takes pride in, considering it was less than half that when he took over the program a decade ago.
“The most important thing my kids are going to get out of this is a sense of community and family at school,” Locsin said. “The kids come to school and they always feel supported. They’ve got 120 kids on campus who are like family. It makes a big difference in their success in school.”
It also translates in their performances. The Regime is regularly one of the top bands in their size classification, which is “4A” for bands between 110-140 members this year.
“In the 10 years I’ve been teaching, this is one of the strongest bands I’ve taught and also the biggest. Having more numbers pushes the whole energy level up,” Locsin said. “Even though we have 120 members now, we’re always looking to bring more into our family.”
When it comes to Nationals, the objective is always to win their classification and score in the top 15 overall for a chance to play in the grand finals.
“We hope to do well,” Locsin said. “There will be 30 bands that we’re competing against from throughout the state.”
“We remain very close to so many of them. We got our lifelong friends from this program.”

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