Now, I feel certain someone has done this before. High school football — and all the pageantry surrounding it — has been around so long that someone has to have done something like this before.

But I’ve been in the newspaper business, now, for three decades. I started out as a high school sports stringer. And I’ve spent the last decade collecting and writing about cool ideas. And in all that time I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

My paper — the Orange County Register of Santa Ana, Calif. — branched out of the usual high school sports schtick this weekend by putting emphasis on high school bands. Our OC Varsity Arts section, which covers to music, art and theater programs in area high schools, put out an entire eight-page Sunday section devoted to high school marching bands.

Click on this — or any page here today — for a much larger look.


Pictured on the front are members of the Mission Viejo, El Dorado, Fountain Valley and Trabuco Hills high school marching bands. The cover shot is by Leonard Ortiz. Find more of his work here.

The section was designed by Laila Derakhshanian. Laila started out here at the Register back in 2002, worked a bit for the Los Angeles Times, was art director for OC Weekly magazine and then returned to the Register in April as a senior designer. Find her portfolio site here.

Pages two and three address the hard work and 12-hour days high school band members put in over the course of summer, preparing for the fall season.


Pictures are by staffers Kevin Sullivan and Paul Rodriguez. The text is by Jackie Moe.

Page four really knocks me out: It’s a full-page graphic devoted to marching bands, researched and written by Sandy Coronilla and designed and drawn by Brian Moore.


In particular, I love the bit at the lower right, explaining why marching bands use specialized instruments that make them easier to carry.

“The pit” — the area where instruments are too large to be carried onto the field — reminds me of a scene from a famous old Woody Allen movie.

Fabulous stuff. (The graphic, I mean, not the video. Although it’s pretty cool, too.) And most of it was researched locally, by talking to band directors at Costa Mesa and Sunny Hills high schools.

Next comes a three-page segment in which local band members are featured with gorgeous Leonard Ortiz portraits and brief Jackie Moe text vignettes.


At the bottom left of page seven, band members are asked to share some of their favorite memories of band camp.


The back page is a marketing ad for a program that offers bands a $100 gift voucher to a local music shop for a referral for a four-week subscription to the Register.


Average daily circulation for the Orange County Register is 356,165.

This article has 26 comments

  1. Cathy Rager

    I really enjoyed your coverage of High School Bands.  Itnwas a breath of fesh air compared to all the regular sports we find in most newspapers today.  I am not a sports fan but am a fan of Marching Bands.  I find in our community that our school board puts emphasis and any extra monies it has toward sports and they give absolutely nothing to our bands. Parents and kids have to raise any needed funds.  I think some kids are not sports minded and music is their thing. All school systems should support their bands. I wish ours would.

  2. Tracy Schultz McIntosh

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!! Thank you soooo much for acknowledging that this is arts, but also an athletic activity. Wish our paper would do this. We are a big marching band kind of city, but coverage is minimal.

  3. ANgie

    Love, love, LOVE this post! My son has been in marching band for three years so far. I knew little about it until he joined and I have fallen in love! I love going to the football games (for the halftime show, not the game!) and competitions. My son loves it and I am so grateful :)

  4. Konnie

    The students in Band are some of the hardest working, most committed athletes in the country. #1 they all take private lessons, and practice every day for years. #2 They rehearse daily, rain – snow – unbelievable heat on asphalt parking lots, year round. #3 They not only must be able play the music, they must move while doing it, keeping in mind where they are on the field at all times. #4 They must be able to eat lightly enough to play their instruments, drink enough to hydrate, but not enough to urinate. #5 This one is the biggie: they must have the most committed families in the world. It consumes every day and weekend, travel costs for the whole family, food and dink on those away trips. There is no summer vacation, or holidays – the band has summer camps, specialty section practice, and various parades to attend. #6 If the band participates in state wide contests the weekends are taken up with longer travel into the non-football season spring semester. #7 In todays school budget cuts, more and more students are asked to pay to play. And are often called on by the school board to
    “entertain” in order to engender local support for it’s very existence. I’ve seen the sacrifice up close, and it’s humbling.

  5. Karen Hooper

    In a world where football is “god” it is so refreshing to see the spirit behind the hype!  Band is a non violent and beautiful organization.  Band rocks!

  6. Brandon S

    hi i am brandon and i love being in marching band i go to bhs and the band director is a great person and the whole band is great

  7. P.D. Varn

    Both of our sons played sports up til middle school, they also played instruments and marched in band thru high school and our oldest son is now a high school band director. Music offers so many benefits that sports don’t, you can play music when you’re 50 not the case with football. We have enjoyed watching the growth of our sons in music and now our grandchildren.

  8. Wililam Pearce

    I am a newly retired high school band director from a rural Pennsylvania high school. I was there 29 years and had a very competitive marching band. Last year, 108 kids were in the marching band — 126 in the concert program. That was 22% of the high school student population.

    I was not replaced when I retired. I have no choice but to run for election onto the board of education in November — I hope my kids and parents see your wonderful article.

  9. Tanya

    Really enjoyed your article. I marched 40 years ago and was proud to do so. My band friends are the ones that I still have after all this time. Great job. Thanks.

  10. Robert Coste

    As the  parent of two band members at Rincon /University  H.S.  in Tucson Az,   I stand in awe of  what our band director and our student athletes  accomplish by the end of marching season . The dedication  by the students and and all the support they receive  by  the parent volunteers and staff is truly amazing. To be proud of  of our children is one of the greatest feelings we can hope for.  Seeing our marching band perform  I can honestly say I have never felt prouder as parent.
    Thank you  for a great article  on one of the greatest assets of any high school program yet least funded by most school boards.

  11. Kelly Dean

    Every band member is a “first string” player, and everyone participates. A student automatically has up to 150-200 friends after band camp, before the first day of school starts. It teaches teamwork, leadership ,responsibility, organizational skills ,and a work ethic. It gives a chance for families to be involved in the program, as well as the band member, as band boosters, and attend all the trips and performances together. The memories of the program, and lessons learned, will stay with the student a lifetime. The lessons learned in the program often propel student into a successful college and professional career above and beyond non music students….Yet, unfortunately, music programs are the first things administrators cut from the school budget…Thanks for the article. We need more coverage like this to get music back into schools, especially elementary schools where kids pick up an instrument for the first time.

  12. Kelly Dean

    I first started playing trombone at age 11 in 6th grade, in public school music class. Continued into High School to marching band, jazz band, and orchestra. Have been playing ever since in various community college, and community bands. Both my kids went through the music program all 4 years of their High School, and daughter was drum major her senior year. I am now 56 years old and currently play in 3 Swing “Big Bands”, a brass quintet, a community symphonic band, and a dixieland band. I’m very thankful music was available to me back in 6th grade. It made me who I am today.

    1. Karen Quo

      I have the best memories of marching band in high school. I started playing the flute in 5th grade and I played all the way through high school. I remember every summer starting band camp before school. It was hot and tough but we felt a sense of accomplishment once we learned the field show. We felt proud once we memorized where to march while playing the music. Another favorite thing of mine was performing in the pep band at football games. Thanks for sharing what goes on at band camp and what it takes to put on a show!

  13. Pat Merklinger

    We had three children all of whom participated in Field Band, Jazz Ensemble and orchestra. They all started in 7th grade and finished when graduating. One of our sons went on to play in The Commandant’s Own Drum and Bugle Corps. He was in the Marines for 20 yrs. Those in band were usually too busy to get into trouble.

  14. Lorenzo Alvarez

    I am now the Drum Line Instructor at the High School where we graduated from and my wife is Band Booster President. I met my wife who was on the Flag Line (color guard) and I was the Section Leader on Drum Line. I believe because of the interaction and experience we both gained from Marching band pretty much paved the way for what we became and respect as a unit. We have been married 28 years and my son was Section Leader in Drum Line and my daughter was a cheerleader. The discipline and dedication we recieved from marching band was so valuable in what and who we became as people. Great article!!

  15. Michele

    Marching Band has molded my 2 sons into the great men they are today! Matthew started in 2003 with DRHS Reno, NV. Then went onto University of Reno, NV for 2 years in their Marching Band program. His little brother, Josh, started in 2009 with DRHS ( no hiccups for this Mom) and with this being his senior year plans to go to UNR for their Marching Band program. Oh wait, it doesn’t end there. Josh was fortunate to march with the Blue Devils B (Concord, CA) Drum and Bugle Corp 2013! AND plans to try out again this year for Blue Devils A. Does it ever end? I hope not because this Band Mom loves it all!! What football field? These young men and women that take the field take it in pride! Bring it…..Marching Band is ready!

  16. Michael

    In reference to your cello clip, last year a school near mine did a Les Miserables show and had a cello solo in it. The cello was carbon fiber and looked AWESOME!

  17. Kim Greenwell

    I really enjoyed reading, or attempting to read all on my PC. Is there anyway I could get a “Hardcopy” of this?

  18. Jeff

    This is a great article a big thank you to those involved in making it and for posting this.
    Marching Band is a unique activity that is loved by those who do it and a mystery to those outside of it. I marched in high school, was Drum Major for 2 years, and marched at the University level as well. Today I spend a lot of my time volunteering as an instructor, booster, drill writer, etc. for our local high school (my alma matter) – it is rewarding in more ways than can be counted. Most of my closest, dearest friends are people I met as a kid in Marching Band – Oh and when I was 14, “this one time at band camp”, I met a girl who is the love of my life and we are still with one another 26 years later!
    Thanks for putting the spot light on a wonderful activity.

  19. Sherry Gilbertson

    I marched flag in high school. We were National Champs in Whitewater, Wisconsin at Marching Bands of America competition (1981). Now my daughter just finished performing this morning at Nationals competition in Indianapolis, IN. Both my kids marched in their high school band. I hear the music and I can still perform my show in my mind. I told my daughter that one day she’ll wake and be able to still perform her show 30 years from now. The best memories are made while frying under the hot sun at band practice. Thanks for the article. We are not forgotten.

  20. Ariana

    I loved reading this! I honestly enjoyed it.
    Band is so under appreciated. We work just as hard as any other sports team!

  21. Felicia S Johnson

    Flag corp member 1993
    Daughter flag corp member 2014-15
    Daughter flag corp Winter Guard member 2015
    Daughter flag corp Rookie of the Year 2014-15
    Daughter flag corp captain 2015-16

    2001 Graduate BA Journalism and Mass Communications from USC, Columbia
    Focus on print and graphics

    1990 Obsessed with all involving marching band, flag corp, newspaper graphics, layout, copy editing, infographics, photojournalism, and so much more related topics

    September 22, 2016 I am thoroughly impressed and gawking at this piece. I wish I could award everyone involved on its beautiful creation
    Hopefully, sharing it with my daughter’s band leader will begin to show my appreciation.
    Thank you, indeed, seems inadequate.

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