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Yuma's Best 2012: Gadsden Band
Best School Music Group
The youngest members of Gadsden Elementary School District’s marching band are in fourth grade. But don’t underestimate them.
This group of about 180 instrumentalists, representing elementary and junior high schools in Gadsden and San Luis, have earned applause far and wide.
After all, they performed in Hollywood’s Christmas parade in 2011. They played and marched in the Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix in 2012.
And most recently the band drew applause across the pond — in London, where it performed by invitation in the New Years Day parade that kicked off 2013.
It was in the United Kingdom that the band received still another invitation to perform in Spain three years from now, although band director Martin Peralta Jr. says no decision has been made about whether to make that appearance.
Now as icing on the cake, that band has been named by respondents in Yuma’s Best, the Yuma Sun’s annual reader poll, as Best School Music Group in the area for 2012.
It could be said that the marching band has made huge strides forward, given that it was formed not even 20 years ago.
So what are the reasons for the band’s steady growth and development and its popularity?
To begin with, band members perfect their presentation skills by performing in parades every year, says Peralta. Aside from London, Hollywood and Phoenix, the band performs annually in the Parada Del Sol parade in Scottsdale, as well as in local events, among them the Yuma Jaycees Silver Spur Rodeo Parade and Dorothy Young Memorial Electric Light Parade.
The band appeals to audiences of all age groups and backgrounds, Peralta says, by playing songs from a range of musical genres, including 1970s-era and modern pop and Latin rhythms.
"We play music (audiences) can relate to," he said. "And it helps with the students, because they get to play the music they like."
Parental involvement is key to the band’s success, Peralta adds.
"That’s a big thing. We have 100 percent support from parents. They work hard to make sure (band members) are at all the practices, and they played a big part in the London trip by doing the fund-raising" to pay for the band’s travel costs to the U.K.
The support of the board members and administrators in the school district also has been crucial, he adds. At a time when the district has had to tighten its belt, it has continued to provide funding for the band.
"They make the music program a priority, and that has helped," Peralta said.
The band was formed in the mid-1990s, consisting of student musicians from only San Luis Middle School. When Southwest Junior High School opened several years later, it began contributing students to the band as well.
In 2006, the band began accepting students from the district’s elementary schools, making it an all-district band.
Today it consists of about 180 students, from fourth to eighth grades, who comprise the drumline, plus the tuba, trombone, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone and horns sections.