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Marching band makes a difference

Foothiller Footsteps

By Connie and Lynn Baer

The past two years of COVID have presented seemingly insurmountable obstacles for activity classes such as high school marching bands. Grossmont High School instrumental music director James Villegas found ways to overcome those obstacles.

2021 Mother Goose Parade

Looking back to the fall semester, James shares, “The famous Mother Goose Parade had to go virtual in 2021 for the second year in a row and that was a disappointment because the Royal Blue Regiment was looking forward to the parade being our inaugural march as a community parade band. However, the band’s disappointment was short-lived after Mother Goose Parade Director Deborah Chandler reached out to us to participate as a headliner along with alumnus Joe Musgrove, Class of 2011 in a Mother Goose Virtual Parade.  

It was a whirlwind of activity to be ready in time, but the students “pulled it off”. Our “parade” went from the Humanities Building on the east side of campus, past the GHS Museum, ending in the courtyard of the new theater complex. A drone recorded the parade, which aired on November 21st, 2021.  Led by Senior Drum Major Joseph Steinbock, the Royal Blue Regiment did an “excellent job.”

2021 Holiday Bowl Parade

A vastly different parade experience occurred in December. Villegas said, “It was an honor to be a part of Grand Marshall Joe Musgrove’s entourage for the 2021 Holiday Bowl Parade, which was ‘a big step forward’ for the Royal Blue Regiment as we reestablish the parade tradition here at Grossmont High School.”

Joey Arthur, a senior, said, “It was a whole new experience! I’ve watched parades all my life and now it was exciting to be a part of a large parade. Seeing other bands, the floats, the crowds and performing live is something I’ll never forget. Our band was proud to be there, and even though it was in the middle of the winter break, most of our members were able to be there.”

Villegas adds, “Parents, alumni and, of course, the band members all came together to make the parade a huge success for us. As the director, I was overwhelmed with pride in the band. It was my first outing after an eight-week medical absence. I wasn’t able to keep up with the marchers and that’s just as well; the emotion of the event may have brought a tear of joy to my eye. A director tearing up? Never! I couldn’t risk losing discipline in those near perfect ranks!

“The Royal Blue Regiment was the only local high school band performing in this year’s Holiday Bowl Parade, but we did get to mix it up with some bands from across the country including from Iowa and the North Carolina State Wolfpack band. Led by the Grossmont NJROTC Honor Guard, we played Sousa’s ‘The Washington Post’ loud and proud. Even our famous Foothiller mascot Gus marched along with us and entertained the crowds.

“We are looking forward to reestablishing the parade tradition at Grossmont. If we can raise the funds, I’d like to restore the Grossmont Shields and tall flags to our lineup, add the cheer squad to our drill team for some exciting color, and bring in some alumni to carry the school banner.  (If you would like to make a financial donation to support these efforts, please contact James at Parading is one of the best ways for our school to support and bond with the community.”

Junior Hayden Evey said, “It was our first parade since I’ve been in high school and I look forward to doing more! At first, I was nervous, but it was very exciting! You’re focused on marching and performing, but the lead up is really exciting when you see and hear other bands. The other bands and, especially the crowds, cheering us on was amazing, and I can’t wait to do more!”

Villegas reflects, “Parading means being a part of the community, showing our school pride, performing for thousands, and bringing out the best in our students. They work hard to accomplish the goal and end the day feeling proud, tired, and maybe a little footsore.” 

Annual Grossmont NJROTC Inspection

On campus, the instrumental music program increases the school’s pride. Director Villegas shares, “The Royal Blue Regiment made history on December 8, 2021, when for the first time in recent memory, the band performed for the Annual Grossmont NJROTC Inspection. In past years, recorded music has been used for this important event, but as I said, ‘Not on my watch!’”

Sophomore Kyle Sterling and Drum Major Joseph Steinbock worked closely with CWO Vasquez to provide musical entertainment to arriving guests followed by the Adjutant’s Call and Sousa’s “The Washington Post” for the pass and review portion of the inspection.

“We were very honored to be a part of this fine tradition and look forward to participating in the years to come,” they said.

The GHS Instrumental Music Program continues to be a source of Foothiller pride, a pride that began in 1920 and that is celebrated in a book documenting the program’s first 95 years, available for purchase on our GHS Museum Store page at

For more information about the program itself, please contact James at To learn more in person, visit the GHS Museum on Wednesdays by appointment or on Saturday, February 19th from 10 a.m.-1p.m. Masks for all are required inside the museum. For more information, contact us at or (619)668-6148.

Connie and Lynn Baer write on behalf of the Grossmont High School Museum.

Source: La Mesa Currier

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