Last month, the Milpitas Elementary Honor Band, led by Joe Santomieri, earned first place in the three-day "Music in the Parks" competition, beating all middle and high school bands from Northern California. The final day of the competition was held May 20 in the Milpitas High School theater. Honor band students were selected out of all MUSD band and were required to practice extra, on top of regular band practice.
Following the competition, Santomieri emailed audio files of the adjudicators' comments to the students.
"I'm very impressed. I teach middle school, and you would have been one of the bands at my school," said Bob Athayde, a teacher at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, California. "I wouldn't normally go up to the stage, but I must say that was a superior performance. ... There were so many good elements going on. Every time a theme entered, I could hear that new theme and the other theme got out of the way. When you repeated a section, you played it softer. That's superior musicianship on the part of your teacher. Boy I just hope you keep playing because you're going to do nothing but keep getting better and better and better. Wow. You knocked my socks off."
Santomieri entered the band to give the students experience competing, and told them not to expect to win. After the competition, Lillie Czarnota, a Curtner student and member of the band, made fliers asking all sixth graders in band at the school to donate $10 each as a sign of their appreciation to the teacher. They presented him with a $100 gift card on May 26.
"I want to thank you for an extremely successful inaugural season," Santomieri wrote in an email to the students following the event. "Everyone was very dedicated and worked diligently to do the very best of their musical ability. Our musical growth was very evident at our district music festival, our end of the year concert, and of course our competition last Saturday. It was an honor for me to work with such eager and talented young musicians."