Afternoon, November 11-12: Best High School High-Steppers 

James Logan High Marching Band, Union City

For more wholesome entertainment, there's the marching band. Sure, they're a dime a dozen in the East Bay, from the Cal band to the Musicians Action Group, which has played at rallies and marches for progressive causes for more than two decades. But for sheer size -- not to mention volume -- nothing beats James Logan High School's marching band. Straight outta Union City, Logan is NorCal's biggest high school with more than 4,000 students and a marching band with a whopping 270 to 300 students, including the seventy or so in the color guard. Some years, there've been eight tuba players; and the percussion section includes bass drums, snares, tenor drums, electronic synthesizers, xylophones, marimbas, vibraphones, cymbals, and orchestral bells. It's a sight to see, and not just locally: A few years back, the band was invited to perform in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in the Big Apple. At a time when many school districts are cutting art and music programs, Logan's marching band is only growing in stature. Led by school-band director and saxophone player Ramiro Barrera, it has won the Western Bands Association competition four years running. The big-band season starts in late August and continues through Thanksgiving. In the spring the marching band splits into three jazz bands and four concert bands. But the time to see and hear the real show is the second weekend in November, when Logan hosts a band competition drawing schools from across California and the West.

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