Banding together


Nikhita Dhamrait

Above, Cal Band director Kent Johnson instructs wind ensemble before their sight reading session. Below, an alto sax soloist from Pittsburg High’s freshman Jazz Band performs. Schools throughout Northern California attended the festival.

Christine Oh, Co Editor-in-Chief

Cal High hosted schools from all over Northern California on April 13 for the NCBA spring festival. 

The festival at Cal was one of three festivals that the Northern California Band Association (NCBA) hosts throughout the year.

“It’s a great privilege to be able to host other schools on our own campus,” said sophomore Ethan Blasdel, who plays the tenor saxophone in Wind Ensemble and Marching Band.

The competition was an outlet for a variety of different groups to showcase what they have been rehearsing. 

“It’s a competitive circuit for Marching Band, Concert Band, Winter Guard, and Winter Drumline,” said Kent Johnson, the band director at Cal. 

Excitement and tensions were high among the performers before the competition.

“I [was] really excited, everyone [was] being put to the test especially because we [hosted],” said sophomore Saariya Malik, who plays violin in Orchestra and performs with Color Guard. 

Cal has a good reputation which it hopes to continue building, as the school has had an impressive history at the festivals in the past years. 

“The Marching Band wins sweepstakes every year,” Johnson said. “The Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble and the String Orchestra have gotten unanimous superiors in the past 15 years. The Winter Drumline and Winter Guard have also won several championships.” 

Sweepstakes are the highest award for marching band and unanimous superiors are the highest award a concert band can receive.

The performers were able to live up to that reputation last month, with String Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, and wind ensemble receiving honors and all superiors, and with Symphonic Band earning an excellent. 

“We worked hard, we played well, and the results reflected that,” said freshman Annika Seo, a violinist in Chamber Orchestra. 

Junior Annaka Widjanarko, a pianist in chamber orchestra, agreed.

“We’ve been practicing a lot so I’m extremely satisfied with our results and performance,” Widjanarko said.

The judges at the festival were quite impressed with Cal’s performance as well. 

“[They were] terrific,” said judge Greg Christiansen, who said he has been judging at NCBA for the past 25 years. “They did a great job [and] Mr. Johnson was a great conductor.”

Each group put on their rehearsed performances and also went through a round of sight reading, where they had to perform a song that they received on the spot.

Although this might be nerve-wracking for the performers, they pushed through with high spirits, getting positive results.

“As a performer, you don’t think about what the judges are saying, you just perform and you leave the rest up to the judges,” Blasdel said. “Part of performing is getting rid of stage fright and just focusing on your music.”