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Fairfax High School senior Emmanuel “Manny” Montiel has had a very busy holiday season, not working or hanging out with family and friends during the two-week break from school, but practicing every day for his role as a drum major for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) All City Honor Band.
Montiel will be one of five drum majors who will lead the band during the 122nd annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, marking the second consecutive year that a Fairfax high student has appeared in the prestigious role. Drum majors are the members who walk in front and alongside the band, using a baton and their hands to give the musicians commands about what and when to play. Montiel, whose regular instrument is saxophone, said it was a crowning achievement in his high school career to be selected as one of the drum majors in the All City Honor Band. Although he won’t be playing music, he said leading the band will be “an incredible experience, life changing in fact.”
Montiel is actually very familiar with the Rose Parade, having performed with the All City Honor Band for the past three years, playing the baritone. He said this year he wanted to do something different, however, and decided to audition to become a drum major.
“I love the saxophone, but I knew that wasn’t an option because there isn’t a winds section in the All City Honor Band, only brass. I knew about the drum major position, and felt I could do that. I prepared a routine and went to the audition, and just gave it my all,” Montiel said. “When the roster came out, I saw my name listed in the drum major spot, and I just couldn’t believe it. It has really been an incredible experience.”
Montiel has been participating in daily rehearsals with the All City Honor Band for the past two weeks at Dodger Stadium, which include both practicing the performances, but also marching around the stadium in preparation for the 5.5-mile walk down Colorado Boulevard during the Rose Parade. Montiel said he has been mentored by former Fairfax High School student Anahi Gonzalez, who served as a drum major in the parade last year. Although the preparation for drum major is difficult, he said his past experience in the parade has helped him anticipate what to expect.
“Every day I feel like I accomplish a lot,” Montiel said. “It’s my fourth time, so it’s not totally new, but it’s my first time as drum major, and it’s really mentally demanding. You have to remain focused and confident.”
Montiel is one of seven Fairfax High Students who were selected this year for the 450-member All City Honor Band. Other participants include Lorenzo Del Castillo, Melissa Castillo, Andres Jacobo, Christian Pocasangre, George Vargas and Raquel Guillen. The band members are selected from thousands of students in more than 60 high school band programs throughout the city. Montiel said he is proud to be representing Fairfax High School, one reason being that the band program has only been in existence since 2006.
Ray Vizcarra, the band and orchestra director at Fairfax High School, put together the school’s band program after it had been defunct for more then 20 years. The program has enjoyed much success during its short tenure, winning first place in the LAUSD’s All City Band Competition in both 2006 and 2010. Vizcarra described Montiel as one of the top members of the program, and added that he is not surprised that Montiel was selected to help lead the All City Honor Band.
“He is a person who gets things done. He is very responsible in regards to his music education, and he practices a great deal, “ Vizcarra said. “He started in the band program in his freshman year, and had never played an instrument, but you wouldn’t know that if you heard him today. He puts a lot of time in on his instrument, and it really shows.”
Montiel plans to pursue a career in music after high school, and will be attending Pasadena City College, which has a strong band program. In addition to performing with the All City Honor band and the Fairfax High School Band and Orchestra, Montiel is a member of several other musical groups. At age 17, he is the youngest member of The Hollywood Wind Ensemble, also known as the Freedom Band of Los Angeles, and the band, “Oya Jeuy”. He credits his father, who has a strong interest in music, for igniting his passion, and counts jazz greats such as Charlie Parker and Chris Hunter as his influences.
“Jazz is what I want to play, and it is what I see myself doing in the future,” Montiel said. “I plan to continue working hard, and will see where it takes me.”
Joyce Kleifield, the director of development for Fairfax High School, added that she believes Montiel will be a stand out no matter what he does.
“Manny is always the one who would volunteer, he is extraordinarily reliable and cheerful, and extraordinarily talented,” Kleifield said. “It’s fabulous for Fairfax that he will be leading the band. We want people to know we have a wonderful band program, and we want kids to be encouraged to come to Fairfax if music is one of their interests.”
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