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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on October 12th, 2010, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 11, Issue 31 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 11, Issue 31

The pirates of Pioneer Valley

A marching band competes for the first time


Blinded by the light
One of the drum majors, Cody Taecker, had roughed out his sickness in order to rally the band for the Central Coast Classic, hosted by Arroyo Grande High School.
Pioneer Valley came into being six years ago, as did its marching band. But the band wasn’t always bustling as it is today. In the beginning, there were just a few members squeaking out the theme from Pink Panther. And, a few years after that, the marching band’s field show consisted of the band members standing at the 50-yard-line, blaring a classic rock song.

Jeff Helms, though, has brought together an entourage of marching band staffers to instill upon the students a passion for marching band. First, there’s drum instructor assistant Cody Williams, who played with the band’s drumline until his graduation in 2008.

Then, there is the drum captain, Zach Hubbard, who had previously marched with band instructor Helms; in addition, Hubbard has been a huge part of the drum instructing circuit all around the coast. From San Luis Obispo to Santa Maria, he has “taught at almost every high school, except Santa Maria.”

The third member of the group is Kerrie Victorine, in charge of the band’s accompanying color guard, which is in its first year. After her four years of high school color guard experience, she went on to perform with the Vanguard Cadets, and, through Hubbard, met Helms. The color guard started with four members, according to Victorine, and then jumped to 11—all within the span of a few months.

Pioneer’s secret
Chris McCormack, who had recently moved from Chino Hills, was an exciting find for Helms. “I found out that he played trombone, and that he was good at color guard. So we use him for both,” Helms said.
And then, there’s the fearless leader of the band; Helms hails from Southern California, where the sun always shines and marching band is king. He has traveled around the United States and Europe as a performer, and he has taught all around Southern California.

These four leaders have been instrumental to sparking teamwork in the Pioneer Valley Panther’s band and leading them to their first competition at Arroyo Grande High School.

Though it was the first such event for the group, there wasn’t much anxiety among band members two days before the competition.

“You’ll hide it well,” Helms said. “But there are always nerves.”

On the day of the competition, there was a lot of love for the band.

“Let’s take the field!” energetic and charismatic drum major Cody Taecker said before they walked out on Saturday after Paso Robles High School had cleared.

As the band stood at the 50-yard line, waiting for Taecker to tell the judges they were ready to perform, the crowd cheered—and one member even waved a sign that proclaimed: “PVHS Band Rocks!”

Tension was high. Helms and the entourage stood next to the trophy table, waiting for the band to play.

All together now
For Pioneer’s first time at a marching band competition, drum captain Zach Hubbard said: “[Their performance] didn’t matter about the judges. The only thing that mattered was that they played a good show.”
After a brief silence, the baritones crawled into the opening measure of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” medley, providing the audience with foggy imagery of a ship sailing at sea. The drumline entered a few measures later, bombarding the audience with deadly precision. It was clear that the Panthers were now a band of pirates, ready to hijack the competition. In fact, the drumline and color guard were dressed in pirate clothing: red bandana, white “puffy” shirts, and black pants. One member of the color guard wielded a saber.

“That was the best time that we played it,” Hubbard said. “They have done an amazing job this year.”

The band finished second overall at the competition; specifically, they took first in visuals, second in percussion, and second in color guard.

Although the band was very successful this year, they could be facing a downsize next year.

“There are about 30 seniors in the band,” Cody Williams said. “We’re just going to have to do a good job in recruiting the eighth graders this year.”

These marching pirates will be setting their compass for another competition in the Atascadero Colony Days Field Tournament on Oct. 16 at 2 p.m.

Intern Henry Houston is never off step. Contact him at

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