Under the direction of Band Director Greg Grant, 43 musicians
from Christopher and Gilroy high schools performed recently on a
– the pier in front of the USS Missouri battleship, the site of
the Empire of Japan’s surrender in World War II. The students
traveled to Pearl Harbor at the invitation of Heritage Festivals,
an organization that hosts some of the country’s most prestigious
high school music festivals.
Under the direction of Band Director Greg Grant, 43 musicians from Christopher and Gilroy high schools performed recently on a unique stage – the pier in front of the USS Missouri battleship, the site of the Empire of Japan’s surrender in World War II. The students traveled to Pearl Harbor at the invitation of Heritage Festivals, an organization that hosts some of the country’s most prestigious high school music festivals.
“Playing there was just cool, especially considering the historical significance of it all,” said 17-year-old Nick Joven, a Gilroy High senior who plays
the alto saxophone. His instrument slung around his
neck, Joven said he was pleased that the band made a trip together before he graduated.
While in Hawaii, the band toured the Dole Plantation, attended luaus, sunned themselves on the beach and prepared for the performance.
“It was a very busy trip,” said Grant, who has taken students to New York City, Toronto and New Orleans on past trips at previous schools. “It was fantastic. It’s always an honor to be able to take kids anywhere and share their music, regardless of the destination. But I thought it would be exciting for them to go to Hawaii.”
Sunny weather, blue skies and temperatures in the mid-80s topped off the trip, and even the stiff breeze that took down a few music stands during the performance didn’t mar the mood. Tourists visiting the battleship got a special treat – the band serenaded them with several marches, a piece dedicated to Pearl Harbor entitled “At Dawn They Slept” and the GHS Fight Song.
“We played the long version,” Grant said with a smile. “That was fun because it was something different.”
The performance culminated with the presentation of an American flag that had flown on the battleship for the band’s “dedication and service to the community,” Grant said.
Wrapping up his second year as band director for Gilroy’s high schools, the biggest change to the program Grant has witnessed was the addition of Christopher High School. Though the bands practice separately – Grant starts his day at CHS then spends the afternoons teaching at GHS – they blend seamlessly during performances, parents said.
“You can never tell who’s from what school because they mesh so well,” said Irene Joven, president of the band’s booster club and the mother of Nick and Sam, a freshman percussionist at CHS.
“It’s working out really nicely because you have the opportunity to start something at the one school and, at the other school, you have the ability to continue preserving a long history of tradition,” Grant said.
Grant got his first taste for music as a 10-year-old in his school’s band. Now 33, he’s been playing longer than his students have been alive. They look to him as a role model, and several plan to pursue a career in music education after graduation.
Joven, who has applied to the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific, said he would love to start off directing high school bands and then work his way up to being a professor. Talking with Grant has helped him focus his career goals, he said.
“He’s definitely influenced me in picking University of the Pacific,” Joven said.
On scholarship for playing the tuba, Grant graduated from University of the Pacific himself with a bachelor’s degree in music composition before earning his master’s degree in music education from the University of California, Fresno.
Like Grant, 17-year-old Mitch Goldsmith, a percussionist in his junior year at GHS, knew he wanted to get into music at an early age. He received his first drum set at 5.
“I love music,” Goldsmith said. “It’s my passion.”
He will also apply to the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific and hopes to become a band director.
“It’s always touching to know that students want to keep music in their lives, however it is that they keep it in their lives,” Grant said. “For the students that want to go on and pursue music professionally, not only do they like music but they want to share themselves with others. I think it’s fantastic.”
For Grant, the lure of bands has always been “about the people.”
“I’ve always liked band because of the people,” he said. “The music has always been an extra, always been something that makes it even more enjoyable.”