Riverside County high school honor band debuts


RIVERSIDE – The inaugural Riverside County High School Honor Band, consisting of 79 students from 19 high schools in 17 Riverside County school districts, performed Saturday, Feb. 1, at Palm Springs High School’s Richards Center for the Arts in Palm Springs.

Assembling the best high school musicians from across Riverside County was the vision of Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Judy D. White.

At the auditions, students performed five-minute solos and showcased their rhythm, high tone quality, dynamics and overall musicality. The honor band ensemble was directed by Kevin McKeown, the conductor of the wind ensembles at the University of California Irvine and at Santa Monica College.

As part of White’s commitment to increasing student access to the visual and performing arts, the Riverside County Honor Band will be an annual collection of the top musicians in the region. Acceptance to the all-county band also provides a pathway for students to audition for regional and statewide honor bands.

Students from Banning High School, Beaumont High School, Centennial High School in Corona, Indio High School, Palm Desert High School, Tahquitz High School, Elsinore High School, Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, Moreno Valley High School, Valley View High School in Moreno Valley, Vista Del Lago High School in Moreno Valley, Murrieta Valley High School, Cathedral City High School, Desert Hot Springs High School, Palo Verde High School, Heritage High School, Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, Citrus Hill High School, Orange Vista High School and Rancho Verde High School in Val Verde Unified performed in the Riverside County Honor Band.

“Our intent was to have representation from every high school that had students auditioning. As it turns out, every high school that came out for auditions had at least one student who scored high enough with the adjudicators to be accepted to the program based on merit,” Louisa Higgins, arts administrator from the Riverside County Office of Education, said. “The experience should be challenging and rewarding for students as they strive to play new and high-level music, travel and meet and make new friends and perform for a public audience that is out of their normal school or district setting.

From Murrieta Valley High School, Elizabeth Matranga, flute; Tori Petrovski, flute and piccolo, and Mackenzie Wood, baritone saxophone were chosen.

From Tahquitz High School in Hemet, Edgar Gutierrez, percussion, and Trent Pearrow, tuba (alternate) performed in the 2020 honor band.

From Elsinore High School, Kasey Cowan, tenor saxophone, and Taima Bati, baritone saxophone were named to the honor band.

From Heritage High School in Perris, Ian Alvarado, trumpet; Maegan Calder, clarinet; Maya Cervantes, clarinet, and Goviani Vasquez, bass clarinet played in the 2020 honor band.

Aaron Wolf, a junior at Cathedral City High School in Palm Springs, played second trombone at the honor band’s first concert. Wolf is involved in his school’s jazz band and several other southern California-area honor bands.

“I see music as a universal language that has the power to bring people together,” Wolf said.

In eighth grade, Wolf auditioned for the All Southern California Honor Band was accepted. Wolf said he looks forward to having new conductors at the honor bands because he believes every conductor teaches him something new and appreciates their different perspectives on music.

Wolf said his favorite part of being a musician is the ability to inspire emotions through his performances.

“As a musician, you can pull people’s heart strings in a way that virtually nothing else can do the same,” he said.

Submitted by Riverside County Board of Education.