The Palo Alto High School Instrumental Music Department has three major ensembles that serve as the base groups for all other participation in the program. They are the Concert Band, Symphonic Band and the Orchestra. Each of these groups is a class in the school curriculum and the students perform at a high level, often receiving Superior and Unanimous Superior ratings at local and national festivals. Membership in these groups makes musicians eligible to participate in the jazz bands, chamber groups, musical theater orchestra and the Paly Pep Band.
The Concert Band is our ninth grade band class. Students who have passed a junior high level band class or equivalent are eligible for this ensemble. The group performs a variety of literature from band standards, marches to lighter pop, Show tunes and jazz arrangements. The Concert Band performs four concerts a year including our Fall Festival with Jordan Middle School, the Winter Concert, the Pops Concert and our final concert in May. They also perform for ratings at the annual CMEA festival in the spring. This band performs along with the Symphonic Band at football games as a part of the Paly Viking Pep Band.
The Symphonic Band is our advanced wind and percussion group comprised of 10th through 12th grade band students. They perform high school to college level band literature as well as jazz, popular and show arrangements. The Symphonic Band performs four concerts a year including our Fall Festival with Jordan Middle School, the Winter Concert the Pops Concert and our final concert in May. They also perform for ratings at the annual CMEA festival in the spring and at the Paly graduation ceremonies. The band performs along with the freshman Concert Band at all home Paly football games as a part of the Paly Viking Pep Band.
The Orchestra is an all string ensemble whose members include 9th through 12th grade musicians. Students in the Orchestra range in ability level from those who have completed their 8th grade middle school orchestra to some of the finest musicians from the local youth orchestras. The Orchestra performs a unique variety of literature that can only be experienced in the high school orchestra setting. Along with the study of the finest classical literature for the medium from Bach to Britten, the students are also given the opportunity to play fun and interesting arrangements of popular, jazz and other newer music. Two to three times a year the string musicians join forces with members of the Symphonic Band to perform full orchestra pieces. The group performs in four concerts a year including our Fall Debut Concert with the Jazz Band, the Winter Concert, the Pops Concert and our final concert in May. They also perform for ratings at the annual CMEA festival in the spring.
The Paly Jazz Band is a select advanced big band style jazz band whose members consist of musicians from the three major ensembles of the music program. They are selected by audition. The group plays a variety of contemporary styles such as standard swing, latin jazz, funk and ballads. Improvisation, the heart of jazz, is a big part of the curriculum. The band performs at all of the Paly concerts, CMEA, local functions and each year has the opportunity to perform with a guest professional artist. The group rehearses one night a week and other times during the school week.
The Jazz Ensemble is made up of eligible students who want a less intensely scheduled place to practice and perform jazz music. They rehearse one morning a week and perform at the Paly Instrumental concerts.
The Palo Alto High School Viking Pep Band consists of all members of the two Band classes (Concert Band and Symphonic Band).
The 120 member Pep Band is made of the combined forces of the two Band classes which meet every day in the Paly Instrumental Music department, the Concert Band and the Symphonic Band. Each of these classes performs on its own in several concerts and performances throughout the year. Select members of the band take part in the Paly Jazz Band. A little more than ten years ago band participation at the football games had been reduced to a volunteer group of 20 or more students playing only in the stands. In 2000, new director Jeff Willner decided to have the whole band play at the afternoon games, so all 68 band members came out to all of the home games for the first time in 3 years. For the final game of that season he had the band start performing out on the track.
In the following few years the group literally doubled in size, the stadium got lights, and the band quickly evolved into what people see now at every home game, something truly unique among high school bands. Not exactly a marching band, but definitely a high quality musical ensemble which ALWAYS aims to entertain the crowd at halftime and to be IN the game. The band tradition is to perform both a pre-game and a halftime show just like most college bands. They march into the stadium onto the track, halt together and perform. A cherished memory for the Paly Pep Band was when they traveled down to Carson to cheer on the football team to a State Championship!