What do you get when you cross Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," "Ballet Suite No. 2" by Dmitri Shostakovich, and memorable speeches from past leaders such as former presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama? 

Maybe an awkward mashup on the surface, but it's actually a band, drumline and color guard performance that stresses the importance of individuality in a world that tries to make people feel like just another brick in the wall.

Liberty High School students get to perform this expressive piece Saturday in Huntington Beach as they try to take the state title in the California State Band Competition.

Led under the direction of Jason Armistead, the 96-person group has had quite a successful season thus far. It has won in its division in several competitions throughout the school year and was the fifth scoring band in the Bands of America California Regional Competition held on Nov. 2 at Bakersfield College. Not to mention just last week the group won the semi-finals for its division in the California State Band Competition, beating out 23 schools, with a score of 90.2, its best ever.

"I always preach to our kids it’s never really about placement or a judge's score. ... It’s about making sure we perform at our best," Armistead said. "If you walk off the field and you feel you performed your best, whatever happens happens."

When it comes to choosing what piece the group would perform, Armistead likes to challenge his students musically, emotionally and physically. This year's piece had a fast pace and strong message that students latched onto, he explained.

The classical and rock music mashup features snippets of emotional speeches from critical times in the United States and around the world. As students are performing, audience members can hear Reagan say "Tear down this wall," Bush talk about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, and Obama discuss patriotism and freedom.

To add to the performance visually, the students don 1980s counterculture-inspired uniforms with bright colors and punk rock hair and have brick walls behind them.

"He’s chosen a show that pushes barriers and allows us to perform in a way that other schools don’t," explained Kaitlynn West, band president and clarinet section leader. "We’re marching really fast, we're playing both Pink Floyd and Shostakovich together ...  It’s hard to pull all that emotion out of yourself."

The music, words and imagery all come together to spread one message: it's OK — in fact, it's necessary — to stand out.

"This show is to help us understand we’re not going to be defined by societal norms, and we won’t be another brick in the wall," Armistead explained. "We’ll be ourselves, stand up for what is right and make a difference."

"Peer pressure is a real thing and encouraging uniqueness and individuality is important and sets us apart," West added.

Last year the group performed "Dystopia," which was inspired by George Orwell's novel, "1984."

West, who is a senior this year, said this season has been exciting for her. To go from a band that, in her freshman year, was not placing in competitions to now being on the brink of a state championship is something she never expected would happen in four years time.

"It’s crazy to know it’s the same band. When (Armistead) came in, we didn’t expect to be the band we used to be years ago," she said. "To see us winning competition after competition and see how much we still grow and haven’t plateaued yet it’s incredible."

Whatever happens, students are ready to give it their all on the field. One moment booster president Adriana West is looking forward to is at the end of their performance when "all those kids can look at each other and see what they’ve accomplished and be proud of what they’ve done."

With a handful of wins already under their belt, there's certainly a lot to be proud of.

"I want my kids to go out there to represent themselves and all the hard work done this season," Armistead said.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

(2) comments


Good going musicians, parents and band supporters, under the tremendous direction of a great band leader. Thousands of hours of conditioning and practice to get this far, and all are to be commended. Often only sports are recognized, but music participation can be part of the students' lives way past high school. Glad I did it in the 50's, it's stuck and appreciated daily.


Well???did they win? Follow up???

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