Strike up the bands! Modesto invitational returns after five-year absence

Modesto band competition is back

The Modesto Marching Band Invitational competition, which ran for 37 years until ending after the 2012 event, returns.
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The Modesto Marching Band Invitational competition, which ran for 37 years until ending after the 2012 event, returns.

You’re invited to the invitational.

That would be the Modesto Marching Band Invitational.

The competition began in 1975 and continued unti 2012. Now, after a five-year absence, it returns Saturday, hosted by the Enochs High School Music Boosters.

Boosters member Michael Mejias and band director Phil Vallejo said the invitational ended because there weren’t enough locally participating schools. Today, the only Modesto high schools with marching bands that choreograph routines and compete are Enochs and Beyer, Mejias said. The next closest is Riverbank High.

Vallejo, a Riverbank High alum who has fond memories of competing in the Modesto invitational, said that when he was hired by Modesto City Schools in fall 2013, he was excited to be part of the event, only to learn it was no more.

“This being my sixth year,” he said, “I really wanted us to do something that could allow us to continue to have five shows, save us some money (because traveling to other invitationals is expensive) and bring the Modesto Invitational back so all the kids could experience what it’s like to have the home show.”

Word spread as the boosters worked on this year’s invitational, and Vallejo and Mejias said they and others started to hear how excited music lovers in the community were about its return. Over its 37-year run, “there’s a lot of people this impacted, a lot of lives it touched,” Mejias said, “and we’ve had a really good response to us bringing the show back.”

Vallejo’s experience with the invitational was that it was entirely a field competition. But this year, four schools — including Downey High — that don’t have field bands will perform a preshow. Individually, “they will do pop tunes on the field and then all four will unite to do the national anthem. ... That’s over 300 kids performing the national anthem.”

The invitational is being held at Johansen High School, 641 Norseman Drive. The preshow will be at 5, the anthem performance at 5:30, then the competition gets underway.

Ten bands will participate. In Class 1A, Riverbank High, Liberty High (Madera) and Mountain House. Class 2A, Beyer and Vanden (Fairfield). In Class 3A, Vintage (Napa), Selma and Enochs, which as host school does not compete but performs an exhibition. ) Class 4A, Live Oak High (Morgan Hill. And Class 5A, James Logan High (Union City).

Logan High,with a 340-member band, closes out the night. The band, directed by Beyer High 1993 grad Adam R. Wilke, “consistently is at the top of the circuit we’re in, the Western Band Association,” Vallejo said.

The Modesto Marching Band Invitational preshow will start at 5 p.m. Saturday, with the national anthem at 5:30, followed by the competition.

Tickets will be sold at the door: $15 for general admission, $12 for students with ID, $10 for seniors, and free to children 5 and under. Proceeds will benefit the Enochs Music Boosters.

The boosters are on Facebook at