San Lorenzo Valley Community Band
San Lorenzo Valley Community Band welcomes local musicians to join the group. (Courtesy of SLV Community Band)

Besides the verdant charm of the redwoods and the neighborly nature of strangers, there are plenty of reasons to love and revere this area that residents call home.

Events like the Felton Remembers Parade, the Redwood Mountain Faire and Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival bring people together to celebrate the very best of our communities, and there’s one other small but mighty group that embodies the same spirit of togetherness: the San Lorenzo Valley Community Band.

Band Manager Teresa Roffe and Artistic Director Nicki Kerns are masters at assembling local talent of all ages (middle schoolers to senior citizens) and composing a musical field trip for the senses.

The band is composed of about 20 members who bring wind instruments, horns/brass and percussion to life with rousing renditions of popular (and sometimes unknown) pieces that tug at one’s heartstrings.

Roffe and Kerns led their musicians on a musical tour de force over Memorial Day Weekend at Montevalle of Scotts Valley, and the results were a toe-tapping good time.

The program included the uplifting “Fanfare for the Common Man,” highlights from “Phantom of the Opera,” a phenomenal version of “Friend Like Me” from Disney’s “Aladdin,” and the spiritually stirring “Baba Yetu,” which means “Our Father” in Swahili.

When Kerns introduced “Baba Yetu” as “music from a video game,” audience members recalled the “chomp-chomp-waka-waka” of PacMan and the indelible sound of his withering death cry; alas, the “Baba Yetu” piece was anything but archaic.

Originally written by composer Christopher Tin for “Civilization IV,” it was the first piece ever written for a video game to win a Grammy (“Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)”) in 2011. While the African Soweto Gospel Choir didn’t accompany Kerns’ group (they sing the soaring lyrics in the original track), the catchy, inspiring music lifted the spirits of the 60 audience members.

Continuing on, the band performed the hopping “Pie in the Face Polka,” “Peter Gunn” by Henry Mancini and finally, “Armed Forces – The Pride of America” as their closing piece. As the various themes of America’s Armed Forces permeated the air, veterans of five service branches were invited to stand and be recognized for their service to the country. (While there are now six service branches—Space Force was created in 2022—it hasn’t been in place long enough to have generated any veterans, so its song, “Semper Supra,” wasn’t included.)

In addition to performing for free, the SLV Community Band accepts donations, all of which are reinvested in the San Lorenzo Valley Middle School and High School Band programs. While the majority of band members live in San Lorenzo Valley, participants also come from Santa Cruz.

Kerns welcomes local musicians to join the fun: Requirements for membership include being able to play a standard concert band instrument at an advanced high school level and be a proficient sight-reader.

“And you have to be ready to have a great time!” Kerns said.

The group’s main objective is to encourage, promote and support instrumental music in the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District; for more information, email [email protected].

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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