Savanna Douglas, a soloist with Banning High School’s marching band, doubles as a dancing princess during competition last weekend at Colony High School.

For a high school band — perhaps any kind of band, for that matter — “Scheherazade” (pronounced something like “sha-hair-uh-zod”) is no simple piece.

The name comes from a female character in “One Thousand and One Nights,” and the somewhat emotionally enthusiastic piece adhered to this year’s theme of “Arabian Nights” during the California State Band Championships competition, held last Saturday evening at Colony High School in Ontario.

It was the second time this season Banning’s marching band took a first place honor, after scoring a first place ranking at the Oak Hills Field Competition last month.

Banning High School’s marching band took top honors in last weekend’s Field Tournament, placing first out of five schools in Division 2A, and took third place in the parade completion with Henry Fillmore’s more upbeat brassy piece, “The Klaxon.”

“A lot of hard work and lots of practice” went into preparing for last weekend’s win, says freshman Aidan Dela Cruz, who plays bass drum, noting that it included “practice over the summer, and a couple of weeks of band camp.”

It is a promising start for band director Roberto Ronquillo, who is in his first year as director of the program, having been selected after working as an instructional aide for the Fontana school district previously.

Ronquillo earned his undergraduate degree in music education from California State University, San Bernardino, and a master’s degree in music from the University of Redlands, and he is thrilled to apply his music experience in Banning.

To helm Banning’s band program “is an absolute blessing.”

“My students witnessed my passion, as they were able to translate my effectiveness and love into their playing, dedicating all their time and efforts into music,” Ronquillo says. “My dream has always been to teach music. I’ve hit every wall imagineable. I wake up every day happy that I’m finally able to do what I have worked for, and appreciate my students as they excel not only as young musicians, but as young adults. They are demonstrating all expectations and are setting the standard as to what Banning High School is about: we are ‘Bronco Strong.’”

Senior Leilani Prak, who plays first chair clarinet, has been playing for the past seven years.

“This took a lot of hard work, and sacrifice of sleep and schoolwork,” she claims. “We stood out. Since we had a lot of freshmen, I think we worked so hard to present what we had — I think we felt we had to work hard to prove ourselves.”

Senior Valimina Spangler performed marching baritone for the competition, and also plays trombone for the school’s band.

“I was very excited when we learned that we won,” she said.

Banning performed third out of the five schools in their category.

Spangler believes that “Scheherazade” was among the more difficult pieces performed by the bands in their division.

“It’s cool. We usually get first place earlier in the season” when competition is not as challenging, Spangler explains. “We can always improve, but everyone was dedicated and excited” to participate.

Bands were judged based on elements such as creativity, musical expression, communication, professionalism, “expressive range,” and “spirit and energy”; for percussionists, they also were judged on pulse control, uniformity, and elements such as “texture and orchestration.”

Bands received between 91-100 points for a “Superior” rating, and 1-45 for a “Poor” rating.

At the competition, Banning barely eked out a first place rank with a scoring average of 66.650 over Pomona High School, which earned a 66.550, and Yucca Valley High School, which received a 66.500.

Tehachapi High School Marching Band scored a 58.800, and Granite Hills High School earned a 55.580.

Escondido High School was the only school in Division 3A, and earned a 72.700.

In the Division 4A, Fontana High School won with a 77.850; Citrus Valley High School was second with 76.900; followed by Ramona High School with 74.625 and San Jacinto High School with 71.350.

Eight other schools in three higher divisions also participated.

A couple evenings a week, Banning’s band students are practicing five hours at a time.

There are three more events leading up to the CSBC’s semifinal and finals next month.

Director Ronquillo has every anticipation that Banning will be represented there.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.


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