These Schools Rock

 

Hours of practice and dedication to their craft have paid off
for two local school bands who have snagged the top prize at a San
Jose radio station’s contest this week.
Hollister – Hours of practice and dedication to their craft have paid off for two local school bands who have snagged the top prize at a San Jose radio station’s contest this week.

On Monday, KFOX 98.5 FM declared San Benito High and the joint Rancho San Justo and Marguerite Maze Middle school bands winners of its “School of Rock” contest which had been advertised on the classic rock station for weeks. The winners got a chance to play live on the air and were interviewed by Greg Kihn, host of the morning show.

“It’s the first time they’ve had this kind of an exposure… the chance to perform on a major commercial radio station,” said James Zuniga, director of the San Benito High School band.

Before the sun came up Wednesday, 40 band members from the school piled into a school bus and drove to San Jose to perform live on the show at 7:30am. They played Carlos Santana’s “Smooth,” along with two songs by Eric

Clapton and rock band Chicago, which the students had learned just the day before.

“I got the e-mail telling me we’d been selected on Monday afternoon, so I had to scramble and find something they could play on the air,” said Zuniga, who has taught music at the school for four years.

This morning, the Rancho-Maze joint school band will perform a medley of Queen songs they’ve been practicing for the contest on the air at 7:30am.

“Everybody gets their 15 minutes of fame,” said Joe Ostenson, who has directed the middle school band for over 30 years. “The kids are excited. I am excited. This is as big as it gets.”

Rancho-Maze and San Benito High were among 15 South Bay schools that participated in the contest, said KFOX promotions director Rob Ayala. Three finalists were selected by the station, that in turn were selected by listeners who called in or voted online.

“Music is usually the first to go (in school cuts),” said Ayala. “We wanted to show the students’ talent and that of the teachers.”

This is the first year the station has held the contest, intended to spotlight school music programs, he said.

San Benito High School band members have differing opinions about why they won. Some credited Zuniga’s high expectations of the bandmembers while others pointed to the director’s skillfully selected music arrangements.

“He likes pushing us because he knows we can do it,” said Alicia Johnson, 16.

Erica Sanchez, a 17-year-old clarinet player, attributed the band’s success to dedicated students who work hard and love what they are doing.

“We are able to mix a lot of talent and experience of the older kids with the willingness to learn of the younger ones,” she said.

San Benito beat Felton’s San Lorenzo High School and San Mateo’s Junipero Serra High School for the prize – a gold disc with the words “Our School Rocks!” splashed across.

Besides the sweet taste of success, the contest is also a chance for the students to explore careers in the music industry, said Zuniga.

“This is a chance for them to see that the music industry is more than being a rock star,” he said. “It’s working with computers, doing promotions, being an engineer.”

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