PHS Marching Band off to London

Pete Costanza

A blow from the whistle that rested around the neck of Band Major Perez Lowery sent the Pittsburgh High School Marching Show Band in motion— funneling through every door and streaming down each aisle of the auditorium to quickly line the stage chock-full of orange and black uniformed band members playing with talent that is now internationally recognized.

The red carpet was rolled out for English dignitaries who extended an invitation to the Pittsburg High School Marching Band on Sept. 26 to take part in the 2014 New Year’s Day Parade in London. The Pittsburg high school creative arts’ building was filled to capacity with students, teachers, government and city officials eager to witness the invitation ceremony.

“Your marching band, ladies and gentlemen, is simply awesome,” said Robert Bone, executive director of the London parade festival, as he provoked a thunderous applause from the audience.

“We have heard much of the band and we saw a little through the electronic medium known as YouTube. And it gives a pretty good impression but it can’t possibly begin to give a really accurate idea of just how magnificent they are,” said Bone before introducing Lord Lieutenant Rodger Bramble who formally invited the high school band to spend a week in London site-seeing and participating in various festivities.

With over 80,000 performers, 280 million television viewers and two-thirds of a million people lining the streets of Westminster, the greatest event in the greatest city, as the British refer to it, is double in size of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade that the band attended in 2009 making this their biggest event thus far.

Band Director Jennifer Martinez explained how she felt and what may have led to the invitation to London.

“It’s actually a little shocking because this invitation was not by our doing. We did not apply for the parade…we were nominated based on all of our previous (performances) … our Macy’s performance is what I guess put our name out there and we were nominated by a few very important voices in the band world.”

The band has performed in places like Hawaii, Disneyland/world, the Gator Bowl and on New Year’s in 2013 will be competing in field and parade competition at the Fiesta Bowl. This invitation marks a high point in the history of the now world-renowned high school band that brings pride to the Pittsburg community.

“I feel spectacularly honored for our students and community and thrilled that they have such a fabulous opportunity not only to show how talented they are but to learn. What a great way to see the world and become a part of what’s happening in such a global way,” said Pittsburg Unified School District Superintendent Linda Rondeau.

The marching band has been the pride of Pittsburg since the mid 1970’s when Oran Cross established it with only 18 students and grew to more than 130 members by 1977.

“I think it’s a great honor whenever you are honored like that by a country that has such esteem. I think it is great pride and tradition,” said Assistant Principal Connie Spinnato. “It was a very proud moment, it was a great event to see, you know, that we are really proud of our kids, we are proud of our band and we are proud of our city.”

Even though Lowery will be graduating before the trip, Martinez has asked the seniors to return as a sort of a payoff for their hard work and dedication over the last 4 years. When Lowery and other senior members of the band were freshman they marched down Fifth Avenue in New York, making London a spectacular finish to their career as high school band musicians.

“I’m excited and honored— it’s an honor to be a part of this program, and also to travel and get to see the world with all the people I’ve grown to know is an amazing thing. And to be recognized by the London New Year’s Day parade selection committee, that’s an honor to me and I appreciate it,” said Lowery.

The band is actively planning for the trip to London by organizing fundraising events and will be accepting donations from the community. Tax identification numbers are available for those who donate money and as the band director says that their previous commitment to the fiesta bowl is making it difficult to come up with the funds to take the trip over the pond, event ideas are welcome. Checks can be made out to PHS band boosters and you can follow the Pittsburg marching band on Facebook for upcoming fundraising events. The Pittsburg Marching Show Band is a staple within the local history and pride of the Pittsburg community, so if you feel the need to help support them you can reach Martinez at 473-2390.