American’s first Battle of the Bands brings musicians and classes together
Sarah Jensen and Jennifer Fong
American’s first Battle of the Bands week took place from April 4th to 8th, 2016. Despite initial skepticism, the Battle of the Bands allowed musicians in each class to form connections with each other and showcase their skills, creating memories and spreading school spirit in the process.
ASB first sent out a call for musicians to audition for their class bands in February, asking for videos of the students playing an instrument or singing. Submissions were originally due by March 4, but the deadline was extended to the 13th. Students who made it into the band then came together and began practicing.
“Before getting accepted, the time between submitting the video and getting the email felt like forever, because I thought we might not be good enough,” Boris Deyanov (12), who auditioned with Ricky Tran (12), said. “I auditioned as a guitarist, but we soon found out that we had no drummer, so I decided to take up that role.”
The Battle of the Bands received rocky reception at first. ASB member Kenneth Cacacho (11), who came up with the event, said that the week was initially “challenging.”
“It was hard to get people to trust [us],” Cacacho said. “‘Is this going to work?’ ‘Is this really cool?’ But as it progressed on through the week, we’ve been getting a large amount of people to watch the bands.”
The Class of ‘19 freshman band kicked off the week with their Monday lunchtime performance of four songs, including the theme from Gravity Falls and “Somebody that I Used to Know.” Of the four classes, the freshman band was the only one to use brass and woodwind instruments in their set, with a trumpet, alto saxophone, and flute. Due to an American High School band trip to San Diego in the latter half of spring break, the freshman band found itself missing several members for half of its rehearsals, which led to problems in the performance.
“Personally I feel we all did good as individuals, but not as a group,” trumpet player Samantha Silva (9) said. “I feel like at the practice we did good, but at the final [performance] we were all messing up and weren’t as coordinated as the practices.”
Others who attended the freshman performance were more optimistic about the performance.
“I feel like a lot of it was nerves,” Ralion Herzog (12), the senior band’s keyboard player, said. “I feel like they could have used a lot of work in terms of coordinating themselves, but overall they did pretty well”
Tuesday’s sophomore band performance consisted of another four songs, performed by a band with a more traditional composition: keyboard, drums, bass, guitar, and two singers. They performed “Photograph”, “Mirror”, “Drag me Down”, and “Happy”.
“I think we did really well in terms of organization,” keyboard player Joshua Huang (10) said. “We practiced a lot. I think that it was pretty good considering years of not being on top of stuff.”
The junior class was represented by 68 Hours, the only class band without a vocalist. They performed a set of nine songs, ranging from Mozart’s “Turkish March” to “American Idiot” and the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. When drummer Andrew Vincent (11) broke his sticks at one point during the set, Huang lent him his pair.
“We actually prepared our playlist three months ahead of time to get all the transitions down,” Vincent said of the band. “After practicing a lot, we feel like the performance did live up to our expectations.”
The senior band performed three songs, including a mashup of “No Diggity” by Black Streak featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen and “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE. According to Herzog, they held seven two-hour-long practices together over spring break.
“It felt surprisingly natural,” Deyanov said. “We got together in my garage and it just clicked. I think the connection had to do more with the fact that we are relatively experienced musicians… but it also has to do with communication and at times compromise.”
At the end of the senior performance, guitarist Akhil Murthy (12) asked Aditi Vaidya (12) to prom, singing “Work” by Rihanna with altered lyrics, bringing personal significance to the school event.
“I want to be at a school where we feel like we have as many opportunities as we can for students to have a moment that they’re going to remember,” Activities Director Chris Fulton said.
Friday’s surprise performance was Mr. Jim Brady singing as Elvis, complete with a black wig and popped collar. Afterwards, the awards were announced: the sophomore class received second place, and the senior band came in first.
“I really saw a progression from when they first started,” Cachaco said. “Some of these people auditioned individually and were just grouped up. They might not have known each other, they might not have been friends, but as practices went on, they had some chemistry together. They got to play good music, know each other, and represent their class. That’s what Battle of the Bands is about: to represent your class with pride and play some good music.”
Brady said that many teachers thought “that the performances were far better than they would’ve ever imagined.” Despite the competition inherent in the Battle of the Bands, Brady said he saw unity prevail between the classes.
“I’ve been here longer than anybody else, and I have never seen as much spirit and unity as I see right now,” Brady said.