DOWNEY -- Warren High School’s Band and Color guard made program history over the weekend when it won a gold medal at the 2017 Southern California School Band and Orchestra (SCSBOA) Field Championships.
Warren’s already successful season culminated in the program’s first ever championship win, placing ahead of 11 other bands with a score of 92.70.
The music program at Warren has historically been very competitive since SCSBOA started hosting a championship tournament in the early 2000’s.
After several years finishing towards the middle or upper middle of the championship pack, Warren finally grabbed the brass – or rather bronze – rings, with a third-place finish in 2011. That result would repeat twice over in 2014 and 2016.
This year the Bears finally struck gold.
According to current program director David Niemeyer, the 2017 marching season was a product of years of build-up. He says the band has evolved and the identity has changed over the last several years, starting with a consistent, solid foundation.
“There have been bands, drumlines, color guards [at Warren] that are just as good or better than what we have this year,” said Niemeyer. “One of the key pieces is that our building block has been in place for a while now. What I mean by that is staff has been there for a while, and then on top of that the boosters have been really willing to do just whatever it takes in terms of these large-scale fundraisers to raise the kind of money to do these kinds of things that we haven’t been able to do such as custom field shows.”
This is only Warren’s second custom field show, having been built from the ground up including music, costumes, props, and set pieces.
“A custom field show you can design whatever you want,” said Niemeyer. “You get to really build on the strength of the program. Let’s say you have a great flutist, you can write a flute solo. If you have a great tuba section, you can feature those guys. If you don’t have a great clarinet section, then you don’t feature them, you don’t write hard music for them.”
This year’s show was entitled Wonderful World.
“We tried to compose a show that was supposed to be post-apocalyptic,” said Niemeyer. “We were writing a show at the time when Trump got elected and [there was] a lot of political unrest. Just things not going well, it still hasn’t gone well. Just a lot of things have emerged in our world from sexual harassment cases, populations such as the Aryan Nation rising up again. The North Korea thing, the Russia thing.
“We weren’t making a political statement with the show at all; there’s nothing political in our show. But as a staff, we were feeling like it’s not a wonderful world and we were making this ironic statement.”
The show consisted of four movements. While the first movement sets the post-apocalyptic scene, the second featured several dueling and call-and-response musical cues between the brass, woodwind and percussion and pit ensemble sections. The third movement featured a haunting arrangement of “What a Wonderful World,” made famous by Louis Armstrong. The final movement featured an arrangement of Guiseppe Verdi’s “Requiem Dies Irae.”
This year’s show is just another example of the Bear’s continued trend to think forward and push the limit of what a marching band field show is, putting together a product that is more full-scale production.
“Since 2011…we really decided to audition the band and try to take more of a serious, cutting edge approach,” said Niemeyer. “Everything before then was maybe a little better than ‘off the shelf shows…’ Now, we’re taking shows and building them from scratch.
The costuming started four years ago with a show called ‘Shogun’ and we haven’t looked back since. It’s like a new identity for us every year. It helps them feel like they’re part of the show rather than just performing the show. It gives us a different look and edge. It definitely puts a different vibe into the community about us in terms of ‘Warren’s different.’”