Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Donald’s mailbag

Ah, the thorny issue of “My kid’s high school band is better than yours.” A Merced reader named Matt responds to my recent post congratulating El Diamante and Clovis West high schools for fine marching band seasons:

I enjoyed your article, especially since my son is now a member of the Bulldog Marching Band.  However, with a little more homework you would have found that the best marching band in Northern California is in Merced. The Golden Valley Cardinal Regime went undefeated in parade competition for 6+ years. That is quite an undefeated winning streak. This year, with close to 200 members and a new director, their sweepstakes streak was broken in their first event in Antioch. However, they bounced back to start a new streak by winning sweepstakes at Cupertino and Santa Cruz. In addition, they’ve recently been in the Rose Parade (2009) and this Sunday will march in the Hollywood Christmas parade.

Sometimes I wish the whole marching band competition thing wasn’t so complicated. It’s not like a high-school football playoff schedule where there’s one eventual champion.

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Hail to the marching bands, with shout-outs to El Diamante and Clovis West

Once a band person, always a band person. (I refuse to bow to convention and label those of us who appreciate marching bands “geeks.”) At least once a year, I try to catch a marching band competition in the Fresno area — preferably the Western Band Association finals, which gives me a chance to see some of the finest marching bands in the state.

So it was great fun for me yesterday to attend the WBA competition at Central High School’s Koligian Stadium. (Because of rain, the schedule had to be revamped.) The bands I watched were very strong, with many moments of visual and musical beauty. Ayala High School of Chino Hills and James Logan High School of Union City duked it out to a first-place tie in the AAAAA (largest) division — a tie that was later broken in favor of Ayala per the rule book by considering high scores in specific judging categories. Both bands were amazing.

But the heartiest local congratulations go to El Diamante High School Marching Miners of Visalia, which placed first in the AAAA division, beating out a whopping 17 other bands from around the state. What’s more, El Diamante’s score of 90.95 meant it placed third overall among all the bands in the competition, including the bigger-division bands, just behind Ayala and Logan. El Diamante won top scores in its division in General Effect, Visual Effect and Music.

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Backstage spy: ‘Phantom of the Opera’

As Clovis West moves into its final weekend of its big, ambitious production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” buzz continues to build. A letter writer to The Bee wrote this week:

I had the pleasure of seeing Clovis West High School’s performance of “The Phantom of the Opera.” These students gave a fantastic performance and should be commended. Every one of them were outstanding. The orchestra and the singing were superb and the show enjoyable from beginning to the end. This is a must see.

With our feature Backstage Spy, we ask cast members from various local theater productions to carry a camera backstage during a typical performance and give us a feel for what it’s like behind the scenes. Our photographer today is Madi Spate, assistant director of the show. Here are her photos and commentary from Thursday night’s performance:


Raoul (Trent Dahlin) and Christine (Haylee Cotta) right before Act II. Masque-arrayed.


Backstage spy: “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Backstage spy: “Bye Bye Birdie”
Backstage spy: “Magic at the Memorial”

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Clovis West High gets the ‘Phantom’ spirit

It’s definitely a “Phantom of the Opera” weekend. Not only is the Fresno Philharmonic bringing in three former Broadway Phantoms for a big pops concert, but Clovis West High School is opening the local premiere of the musical Friday at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre for a three-weekend run. (In a bit of synergy, cast members from the Clovis West show will get to attend the Philharmonic rehearsal Saturday morning and meet the cast members.) I’d hoped to embed a promo video in this post but couldn’t get the coding to work, so here’s a still image — check out the video link below.


Click here for the video.

Congrats to the Clovis East High band


If you’d told me a couple of years ago I’d be writing that Clovis EAST High School, not Clovis WEST, was the highest scoring local band at the Western Band Association Championships, I would have said your brain was dizzy from standing too close to the cymbals. But that’s what happened Sunday. Clovis East walked away with a third-place win in the overall smaller-bands category, while Clovis West — known for decades as a marching powerhouse — placed 13th in the larger-bands category.

Clovis East’s overall score was 88.85, while Clovis West received 82.35.

Congratulations are also in order for Visalia’s El Diamante High School, which scored 12th overall in the bigger-band category, also nudging out Clovis West.

In the smaller-band category, some Valley schools did quite well, including Madera High School at No. 7 with a score of 83.95 (also ahead of Clovis West), Madera South High School at No. 8 with a score of 80.10, and Los Banos High School at No. 9 with a score of 79.45.

I can’t claim to have my finger close to the pulse of the local band scene this season, so maybe Clovis East’s success wasn’t all that much of a shocker, but I for one am really surprised. What’s the word, band insiders? Was this a major upset?

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