A beloved feature of Garfield sports games is the performance of the thundering marching band. Basketball and football games are punctuated throughout by blasts of traditional and modernized music played by more than 120 members of the historic, renowned marching band. Win or lose, as players leave the court and mobs of students crowd the exits, the band jumps proudly into I’m So Glad, a song that has ended sports games for decades.
Tony Sodano, the director of marching band is proud of what they’ve accomplished.
“We do what we do and the audience for the most part tends to like it” said Sodano.
Directing the marching band is a significant amount of work going beyond the two instructional periods that Sodano teaches each day.
“I’m still a professional musician, working for the Seahawks and also being a nighttime performer. I’ve had to scale way back on my personal playing because there is so much required” said Sodano. “For the size of this band and how much stuff we’re doing, the fact that it’s only me is crazy.”
A large part of Sodano’s work revolves around arranging popular music for the band to play.
“Generally, for the athletic games I write half the music,” said Sodano. This includes notating popular songs and transcribing them for each instrument.
As the school district funding is very limited, Sodano has seen the music program struggle.
“I get 200 dollars to operate from the school which is a laughably low amount considering that one piece of music is 80 dollars” said Sodano.
Instead of coming from the school, most of the funding for the band’s instruments, repairs, music arrangements and event bussing is paid for by parent donations and compensation for commercial events.
“We have other types of gigs like we played for McDonald’s a couple of years ago and we played for Amazon last year. Those raise decent amounts of money,” said Sodano, referring to the band’s paid performances at
McDonald’s and Amazon’s specialty events.
Overall, the band supports itself financially.
“We’re pretty self-sufficient whether it’s from performing or from the parents, it’s not really any outside source.”
However, Sodano admits that there are several ways that additional funding would help to improve the program because extra funding could result in hiring additional staff, which would take some of the pressure off of Sodano.
“If we had like a normal set up with an assistant director we could balance a lot of stuff” said Sodano. “I’m a percussion specialist, that’s why we have the drumline that we have and there are times, like for brass and woodwind related work, where I’m not nearly as effective as a brass or woodwind specialist would be. That’s when we’d hire someone to bring them in. “
In the end, the marching band does well with the resources available.
“Most other schools have a director an assistant director and they have percussion staff, they have visual staff and marching staff,” said Sodano. “There is so much that we could be doing but you need a real budget to pay people. And we just don’t have that here. And that’s okay. We just make do with what we got.”
Junior trombonist Tesfa Kirk has been with the marching band through his entire time in high school.
“Right now this is my sixth year playing,” said Kirk who has been thinking about what to do after he graduates. “I’m considering going professional, just seeking music as a career, [but] if that doesn’t work out I’m definitely open to other things as well” said Kirk.
More than just another fine arts credit, marching band offers a place where musicians can enhance their skills.
“You improve as a musician because it teaches you how to play loud which is not something I did before” said Kirk. “It also allows you to do things like solo that you don’t get to do otherwise.”
When he arrived at Garfield, Kirk did not intend on doing marching band at all.
“At first you could only be in jazz if you were in another band class and the C orchestra didn’t have any brass” said Kirk. “I decided to take marching band but, as the years went on I started to really enjoy it.”
Years later, he’s still involved in the program.
“Now that I’m not in band class and I’m only in jazz, I still go to the games and play” said Kirk.
But to Kirk, marching band is about more than just performing.
“It’s definitely a very interesting experience because of how big the class is you get to meet a lot of people that you wouldn’t otherwise [meet]” said Kirk. “It was very fun being able to go to all the games because I definitely wouldn’t have if it weren’t for band.”