First District Festival of Bands in two years brings CJUSD’s bands back together

The collaborative event showcases the best musicians from across the school district


Courtesy of Israel Fuentes

Kenneth Taber leads a band of students from across the district in a rendition of “The Dragon Prince.”

Bloomington, CA—On Thursday night, March 3rd, all the schools in the Colton Joint Unified School District presented their best bands to play at the District Festival of Bands, the first since pre-pandemic at Bloomington High School’s football stadium.

Having the Festival of Bands outdoors was especially strange for an event usually done indoors. However, COVID concerns this time around pushed things to be arranged outside. 

It was freezing night for everyone. On the field, the musicians shivered in their formal wear. In the stands, spectators brought blankets and cozy sweaters to keep warm.

Monique Gomez from CHS’s wind ensemble confessed, “If I’m gonna be straight honest . . . I didn’t look up a lot. It was too cold.” 

All the musicians performing agreed with Monique, wishing they played inside during this weather. 

All the bands played in groups depending on their school level. 

Despite the cold, the Festival of Bands served as a great learning experience for the musicians themselves. It granted them an opportunity to play with different instrumentation and people they don’t usually do. 

“We’re still a small band at Colton right now and there’s certain instruments we don’t have that were filled in by the other two high schools,” Band director Kenneth Taber said. “Like we had french horns tonight. We had a tuba, a barisax, tenor sax—there are a lot of other interesting instruments they got to play with tonight, and you could hear all the harmonies in the pieces that you didn’t hear when we’re just rehearsing on our own.”

The combined high schools of CJUSD played “The Star Spangled Banner,” conducted by Robert Ransdall, “The Gladiator March,” conducted by Victor Torres, and “The Dragon Prince,” conducted by Kenneth Taber. 

“The Gladiator March,” as arranged by John Philip Sousa, a well known American composer, was a piece with cool moments for each instrument to shine.

Although “Gladiator March” was very instrumentally interesting, it did not have anything on the “Dragon Prince”’s percussion-driven rhythm and slowly developing array of music. 

Both pieces left an impression on the middle and elementary school bands. 

Leah Ornelas from CMS’s advanced band said, “I liked playing with the other bands, getting to listen to how other people play and stuff. It’s pretty cool. It was a good learning experience and I get to be a part of the high school band next year.”

The Colton Middle School band left a great impression on CHS’s Wind Ensemble as well. 

Their performance of “Colliding Visions,” conducted by Caitlin Curran, and “Declaration and Dance,” conducted by Philip Wright, made Mr. Taber excited for future freshmen and their potential. 

“[They] Sound great!” said Taber. “And not just because of tonight—we’ve done other concerts and events for them. I know they have some talented players. I’m looking forward to getting, hopefully, all of them over here and next year, too.”

The Festival of Bands was a great success for band students and teachers alike as their passion for music was able to put on such a display.