Scores of band students from several archdiocesan high schools traded two days of sleeping-in vacation time last Thanksgiving for a higher purpose: to practice for their “Los Angeles Catholic Schools Band” debut at the 2013 Hollywood Christmas Parade.
The 166-member band, with students from 13 archdiocesan, parish and private Catholic schools, spent their post-Thanksgiving Friday and Saturday last year putting in eight-hour days in Dodger Stadium’s parking lot perfecting their marching moves for their first-ever performance. The L.A. Catholic Schools Band was among ten bands that performed at the Hollywood Christmas parade, appearing on several local television newscasts to the delight of family and friends.
“The band exceeded all of our expectations,” said Eric Hankey, co-founding band director and band director at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance since 2011. Hankey — previously band director at Westchester High School and an assistant director for LAUSD’s All-City Band — was encouraged by Bishop Montgomery’s principal, Rosemary Libbon, to invite other Catholic high schools to join in an archdiocesan-wide band.
“We simply wanted the kids to have a chance to play together in a larger band,” said Hankey, who was helped in the effort by Junipero Serra’s band director, Chris Adachi, and Chaminade’s band director, Ken Hoffman. Although some people were skeptical about the Los Angeles Catholic Schools Band endeavor — never attempted before in the archdiocese — school band families rallied behind the project.
“Before the first rehearsal at Bishop Montgomery (also drawing students from other schools that included Bishop Alemany, Cathedral, Chaminade, Holy Family, Junipero Serra, Loyola, Notre Dame, Providence, St. Anthony, St. John Bosco, St. Joseph and St. Paul), parents said they would do whatever it took to make it happen,” said Hankey.
The parents were very helpful in fitting students with their new band uniforms, acquired from a school in Bakersfield selling 200 black and silver-trimmed band outfits for $5,000. “There was praying involved,” about getting permission to finance the band uniforms, said Hankey, who lauded his principal for her trust in investing in the band’s future.
“The students loved it, because it was a fun experience to be part of a larger group and to see how music brings people together,” said Adachi, who added that the band members worked really hard to musically blend and march in step.
“I was ecstatic about their performance, and I am looking forward to the future,” said Adachi. “We have wild fantasies about bringing the band to the Vatican.” He noted that band members have the unique opportunity to get exposure to the world by traveling to participate in parades.
Daniel Muncherian, a trumpet-playing junior band member at Bishop Montgomery, said he enjoyed being part of the Los Angeles Catholic Schools Band and practicing in the Dodger Stadium parking lot “that you never see completely empty.”
“It was a really good experience to be with a much larger band and to get to know people and create a relationship based on the thing we love to do most, which is play music,” said Muncherian.
“I think what surprised me the most was the number of people. I usually play with 30-40 people at Bishop Montgomery, and there were [more than 150]. That was very fun.”
Recently, band officials learned that a grant written by Bishop Montgomery’s principal, Libbon, and band director, Hankey, was awarded from the Dan Murphy Foundation for $34,600. The grant will help fund operational costs for both 2014 and 2015.
Upcoming performances by the band are scheduled on Sept. 13 for the 2014 Grand Marian Procession from La Placita to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and on Nov. 30 for this year’s Hollywood Christmas Parade. The band’s application for the 2016 Rose Parade is pending.