SLO High Struts In New Suits
Marching band sports stylish uniforms in their official debut during homecoming parade, game
By Sarah Linn
October 20, 2007 – The Tribune
As the Tigers took the field at San Luis Obispo High School on Friday to tackle the Atascadero Greyhounds, they weren’t the only squad sporting spiffy black, white and gold.
The marching band celebrated homecoming 2007 with the official debut of their brand-new uniforms.
Tiger band members had worn tattered, outdated attire for more than three decades. Their outfits dated from the era of bell-bottoms and the Bee Gees.
The replacements, purchased just last year, resulted from years of tireless effort by students, parents and community members.
Many donors once blew brass and banged drums in the band.
John Furtado Jr., a San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly grad, said he was shocked to hear the school was using the same band uniforms he wore as a trumpet-playing sophomore.
“I was flabbergasted that the uniforms had been around for 30(-plus) years,”
Furtado said. “I said, ‘Oh gosh, you have got to be kidding me.’ ”
A flip through San Luis Obispo High School yearbooks reveals a range of band uniforms – from simple suits and bow ties in the 1920s to a belted, military style during World War II.
In April 1970, new band director Lyle Stubson and his students welcomed yet another ensemble: crisp black uniforms with tuxedo pants. They were trimmed in furry shako hats with gold tassels in the style of Buckingham Palace guards and had gold-and-white vinyl overlays.
According to the 1970 yearbook, band boosters scraped together $3,500 with bottle drives and candy sales. Matching funds from the school helped purchase the uniforms for $8,000.
Furtado, who first wore one of the new wool uniforms in 1971, remembers just how heavy and warm they were.
“If you were marching in Paso Robles in the Pioneer Day Parade in October, you would definitely be feeling it,” he recalled.
Over the decades, those uniforms grew threadbare, the shako hats as dirty and matted as old stuffed animals.
“There’s literally duct tape, masking tape, black tape, rubber glue in spots trying to hold these things together,” band parent Larry James said.
Time for a change
By the time Sharon Jeskey took over as band director in 2003, she said, it was time for a change.
Fundraising efforts were jump-started about four years ago with $10,000 from Myrtle Bullock of San Luis Obispo. She donated the money in memory of her son, Allen, who died just before his freshman year in 1959.
Car washes, Christmas tree sales and other fundraisers followed, organized by the nonprofit group San Luis Obispo Instrumental Boosters Association. But as money came in, the cost of uniforms kept climbing.
Boosters looked for another source.
“We thought, ‘Wait a minute. There have to be alumni who could help out,’”
said volunteer Carol Tangeman, whose 15-year-old son, Collin, plays saxophone in the band.
They pulled out the old yearbooks and started making phone calls.
Scores of donors answered, including dentist Jon Hollister and attorneys Anthony Boyd and David Money.
Bill Thoma, co-owner and president of Thoma Electric Inc. in San Luis Obispo, jumped at the chance to help the school, where he played trumpet until 1972.
“This is my turn. This is my way of paying back Mr. Stubson for putting up with mischievous little high school kids,” he said with a laugh. His brother, Ed, also played in the band.
Furtado, now a senior vice president for Bank of America, reached out to his alma mater from his home in the Bay Area. The company provided matching funds for about $1,800 from Furtado and his sister, Mary, a flute player in the 1980s.
His family of marching band fans includes his father, John Furtado Sr., who played sousaphone at the high school before graduating in 1942.
Fundraising efforts even got a boost from a certain Hollywood starlet.
When Lindsay Lohan filmed “I Know Who Killed Me” here in February, some of the money donated to San Luis Obispo High School by the film production company went to the band, Jeskey said.
Crafted from a lighter, more breathable polyester-wool blend, the Tigers’ new duds feature white-and-black jackets with elegant gold details, black hats with tall plumes, black pants and short, gold-lined capes.
“The kids were like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to have a cape,’” Jeskey recalled with a laugh.
The final price tag was $30,785.04 – about $470 each for 65 uniforms.
For a 38-member marching band, that number assures enough extras to take care of wear and tear over the many years these uniforms are expected to serve the high school.
Students had worn the new uniforms at football games this fall and for a competition last weekend. But Friday night marked the official debut.
According to the band director, the new uniforms help put San Luis Obispo High School on equal footing with its rivals.
“The kids are really excited to wear them,” she said. “It really gives them a boost of self-confidence. It’s interesting that what you wear can really make a difference.”
Parents also say the change is evident in their children.
Larry James’ 16-year-old son, Peter, plays baritone saxophone in the band.
“From seeing them out in the field, they’re acting a lot different than they were in their old rags. They’ve got pride,” said James, a computer and networking specialist who graduated from San Luis Obispo High School in 1979.
Donors such as Thoma and Furtado hope their example will inspire current and future students at San Luis Obispo High School to support the marching band.
‘It’s part of ‘pay it forward,’” Thoma said. “Maybe the next group can help out.”