ALAMEDA -- The 45-strong Encinal High School Marching Jets and a dozen visiting bands from around the Bay Area struck just the right chord with Alamedans at the 19th Annual Encinal High School Extravaganza of Bands last Saturday.
The event drew hundreds of spectators to the school gym for the concert competition, while neighbors lined the streets around the school to watch the band parade and review.
"It's a chance to see the great American youth making wonderful and artistic music," said Encinal's longtime music director, Armen Phelps. "The level they perform at is amazing."
The all-day event, featuring more than 1,000 young musicians, included a symphonic band competition in the school gym for middle and high school bands, as well as a parade competition on Pacific Avenue and a percussion contest on Haight Avenue.
As hosts, the Marching Jets -- who won first place at this year's Napa Band Review -- did not compete. Benicia Middle School swept both the Concert and Parade Division for middle schools; Vanden High School in Fairfield won the high school Concert Division, while Armijo High School, also in Fairfield, took the high school parade honors.
Ken Peterson, who has lived in Alameda since 1973, was listening to the bands' concert performance in the school gym. He said this was the first time he had attended the musical extravaganza -- but it certainly wouldn't be his last.
"It's a marvelous event, the quality of the high school and middle school bands is so great," said Peterson, who used to play clarinet in the Brentwood High School Marching Band. "This is such a great and important event that should be showcased in Alameda."
One of highlights of the day was the band parade. Thirteen bands marched around west Alameda near the high school, entertaining neighbors with classic marching tunes such as "Nobles of the Mystic Shrine" performed by the Bulldog Marching Band from Pacifica and "Boys of the Old Brigade" by the Super Band from Fairfield.
"The event is a great tradition for Alameda," said event chair Ann McCormick, a member of the Encinal Band Boosters. "It's one of the biggest events on campus and really showcases the hospitality of Alameda."
Encinal's extravaganza is the final competition of the years for the high and middle school bands, which also perform at events in Fairfield, Vallejo, Napa and Santa Cruz throughout the school year.
Olivia Woods, 17, is the drum major with the Marching Jets. Now a senior, she's been playing with the band since freshman year and is now set to graduate and join the U.S. Navy.
"It's been so much fun playing with the band," said Woods, who plays alto saxophone. "I've always loved music, but Encinal is special because it's such a small band and we're like a very close-knit family."
Jeanette Perdue was visiting from Hollister with her three children, who all performed with the San Benito High School Scarlet Regiment Band. She said this is the fourth time she has come to the Encinal extravaganza.
"We love it here, we come every year," said Perdue, whose children play flute, clarinet and bass drum. "This is the final high school concert for two of our kids who are seniors, so there are a lot of tears."
Lori Keep, whose 15-year-old daughter Abigail plays trumpet with the Marching Jets, said her daughter has blossomed with the band.
"For kids who are not into sports, band is a great team activity, it's like a big family," said Keep, who is treasurer of the school's Band Boosters. "I think traditions and shared experiences are the thread that provides lasting memories and a sense of security for everyone, but especially for kids in their high school years."
Abigail Keep said band members have to be dedicated.
"We practice every day in class and in the evenings, especially when a performance is coming up," Keep said. "It's tiring sometimes, but it's a lot of fun to hang out with everyone today and see all the other bands."
Lori Keep said the extravaganza is also a fundraiser for the music department since schools pay an entrance fee to compete. Students also manned several concession stands in the school courtyard selling everything from hot dogs to sodas, T-shirts and trinkets.
"We use the proceeds to survive above the money we receive from the district, to keep taking care of uniforms, replace and repair instruments, pay entrance fees for competitions and pay the $1,000 for the rental of a bus," Keep said.
Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore also chimed in with praise for the band.
"Alameda is proud of the Encinal Marching Jets and Encinal High School Concert Band for the value they bring to our community," Gilmore said.
"I really feel honored to be part of the kids' lives and to be part of keeping the Encinal marching band tradition going," Keep said.