Pittsburg High School’s award-winning marching band is slated to perform at a New Year’s celebration in Rome, Italy, capping off what has been a stellar season for the young musicians.
The band, which has previously performed in London and at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, is one of five schools in the United States to attend and the only contingent hailing from California. The students will be leaving on Dec. 28 and returning on Jan. 4.
A group of delegates from Rome traveled to Pittsburg to watch the band perform and personally invited the team to the city’s official celebration.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students, many of whom haven’t traveled outside of the country before. With the help of their parents and the booster club, the band raised thousands of dollars to pay for airfare and accommodations. Many of the parents participated in fundraisers at the Concord Pavilion, sometimes staying until 2 a.m. to sell merchandise. Others sold food during football games and hawked cookie dough.
“My mom worked concerts at the Concord Pavilion,” said junior Daniel Siragusa.” Whatever money she got from that, it went straight into my bank account to help me pay for the trip.”
The performance is also a highlight for band instructor Jennifer Martinez-Narez, who is an alumna of Pittsburg High School and played in its band as a student.
“There are a lot of good memories that I have, and I’m glad that I can be a part of those memories for the students,” the teacher said.
Martinez-Narez said it has been a thrill to watch the teens develop confidence in their musical ability. In her 12 years of teaching, “time has flown by,” she said.
“What makes me the proudest is how incredibly hard these students work,” she said. “Music means a lot to them, and you can see how dedicated they are. They really put their hearts into it, and it shows in every performance.”
A group of parents will also be chaperoning the students, who will play a hodgepodge of classic and modern hits during the New Year’s Parade. Katrina Williams is attending with her son, Ryan, and said the sacrifices have all been worthwhile. She often put in 14-hour days to come up with the money for her son to travel abroad for the first time.
“To know what it took for my family, to give my son the opportunity, knowing that I’m able to go with him, it means the world to me,” she said.
Williams was initially worried about her son attending the 3,000-student high school but was relieved when he found a comfortable niche within the band. It has given him purpose and is a huge source of pride for the once-shy teen.
“He has a community, people that he can lean on, that he can look to, and it really helped make that transition into high school,” Williams said. “It has eased some of my anxiety.”
Despite the pressure of performing in front of thousands of people, the band has tried to remain calm and collected. Band major Junior Passmore, who leads the contingent, said he tries to ease the pressure by cracking jokes.
“For the most part, I try to keep it pretty loose and laugh,” Passmore said. “With performing, I try not to be hard set on being perfect, because that’s pretty much impossible. But we can definitely have a good time.”