The Sobrato Jazz Band played at the Jazz @Gavilan concert Nov. 2 at the Gavilan College Theater. Photo: Chris Mora

Student-musicians at Morgan Hill’s Live Oak and Sobrato high schools have excelled and performed for live audiences at numerous recent events, with more chances on the horizon to showcase their talents and hard work far and wide. 

And while both schools offer a variety of extracurricular and academic music and band programs, most of them rely heavily on private fundraising and parents’ pocketbooks in order to take full advantage of travel and competition opportunities for the participating students. 

Some of those opportunities promise to bring “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences, such as the Sobrato Wind Ensemble’s upcoming trip to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall. The band—which consists of about 50 young musicians—will perform at the world-renowned venue in March 2024, for one of Carnegie Hall’s upcoming festivals, Sobrato Band Director Greg Chambers said. 

“Performing at Carnegie Hall is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any musician,” Chambers said. “These students have demonstrated the dedication, passion and artistry to perform at the highest caliber and are deserving of this opportunity. To say I’m proud of these students is an understatement.”

Sobrato Musical Coaches Kirk Berkland and Jeff Chambers have also helped lead the Wind Ensemble on their path to Carnegie Hall. 

Other recent accolades for the Wind Ensemble—a for-credit class at Sobrato—include the Unanimous Superior award at the local festival organized by the California Music Educators Association (CMEA) in March, as well as First Place and Sweepstakes awards at Music in the Parks Festivals this year, according to the Sobrato Murphy Music Association, a nonprofit booster organization that raises funds for Sobrato and Martin Murphy music and band programs. 

Sobrato’s Jazz Band has also been thriving with a busy schedule of recent and upcoming public performances. The Jazz Band performed at Gavilan Theater on Nov. 2 for the college’s Jazz @Gavilan performance, which was headlined by the Dahveed Behroozi Quartet, featuring Mike Olmos on trumpet. 

Greg Chambers said that gig sprouted from a clinic that the Dahveed Behroozi Quartet held last year for Sobrato band musicians who might want to continue studying and playing music after they graduate from high school. 

Sobrato High Schooler Taryn Tsuji plays piano with the school’s Jazz Band, pictured performing Nov. 2 at Gavilan College. Photo: Chris Mora

The Jazz Band—taken by students as part of Advanced Placement Music Theory at Sobrato—this year has performed and earned Superior Ratings at the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival, Reno Jazz Festival and Campana Jazz Festivals, SMMA boosters noted. 

Sobrato’s Marching Band has made its share of noise in 2023 as well, having recently earned second place at the Oct. 28 Hollister Scarlet Regiment Tournament of Bands, according to the boosters. Live Oak’s Emerald Regime took first place at the Hollister competition. Sobrato’s Marching Band als won third place—earning $4,000—in the San Francisco Fleet Week Band Challenge. 

Band boosters noted that youth band and music are more than just fun extracurriculars, as research has shown that two or more years of musical instruction can produce many benefits for developing minds. Marching Band, in particular, “shapes young musicians into competitive musician marchers and counts toward PE credits when students commit to all four years,” says a press release from SMMA. 

Other band and music programs offered year-round at Sobrato High School—some as academic coursework, some as extracurricular programs and others as a combination of the two—include Color Guard, Concert Band and Winter Percussion. 

SMMA Jordan Pedersen said these programs—as well as efforts to get more middle school students involved in music—rely significantly on donated funds. Expenses that are not funded by the school district include travel costs, competition fees, hiring private coaches, additional instruments, sheet music and other equipment. 

The programs strive to avoid turning any interested students away due to their own inability to contribute financially, Pedersen added. 

“While music education thrives at Ann Sobrato High School, it is largely thanks to ongoing volunteer fundraising efforts and parent contributions,” says the release from SMMA. “All the band programs are in dire need of continuing support, especially to support students with financial hardship.”

SMMA is actively soliciting tax deductible donations for their scholarship fund and general fund. The scholarship fund pays for program fees for students with financial hardship, travel and scholarships for graduating seniors who plan to major in music, Pedersen explained. 

To donate online by PayPal, visit Checks can be made payable to SMMA and sent to P.O. Box 1198, Morgan Hill CA 95038. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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