Campana Jazz Festival gives out $12,000 in scholarships
38 bands compete for top honors
For 38 years, some of the area's best school bands and musicians have been coming to Amador Valley High School in February to play and compete for scholarships at the Campana Jazz Festival.
Although Amador has laid claim to the festival and named it in honor of former Music Director Jim Campana, it didn't start out that way.
"The festival was actually originally the city's event," said Marilyn Palowitch, who's been spearheading the festival for years. "When Jim Campana started the event, it was at the request of the city. At some point along the way, he was honored with the festival being named for him and all the work he had done as an educator in Pleasanton."
Over the decades, the festival has grown from about 14 ensembles to a peak of 51, with 38 bands competing this year. That includes a stretch of years when Amador was having a hard time finding and keeping music directors. The school had 10 band directors between Campana's retirement in 1979 and 2002, when Jonathan Grantham was hired.
Campana, known in the area as Mr. Music, ran the music programs at Amador for 20 years.
Starting in 1959 with about 20 students, Campana -- a professional musician in the Bay Area, who played saxophone and clarinet -- built the program to more than 300.
Campana was unable to attend the festival this year, but he and his wife, Rosemary, who died in August, have been regulars at the event.
Grantham, the district's Teacher of the Year, gets much of the credit for developing the quality music program at Amador. When he started, the number of musicians coming to the school from the district's middle schools had dwindled to about 90; now there are more than 200 in Amador's marching band alone.
Even with Grantham, the Campana Jazz Festival wouldn't be possible without the work done by the parents of the young musicians and the volunteers they recruit. They dedicate hours behind the scenes, coordinating transportation, arranging for advertising, creating and passing out the programs and setting up scholarships.
This year the festival gave out about $12,000 in scholarships, according to Palowitch.
She said students who won will have the opportunity to attend one of nine different summer camps ranging from programs costing about $300 to the Stanford Jazz workshop, which has a price of $1,300. Over the past 10 years, Palowitch said, the festival has given out more than $100,000 in scholarships.
"All those scholarships are donated by the camps," she said. "It's not something that's typical."
In return for donating the scholarships, the camps get publicity.
"It's great for the camps and 700 students get exposed to possible opportunities for summer," Palowitch said.
She said that Amador, as the host of the event, doesn't compete, and its students are not eligible for the scholarships.
This year, Foothill's AA big band placed third and its A big band came in eighth.
Pleasanton took two of the three top slots for middle school big band, with Harvest Park in second place and Pleasanton Middle School in third. Also, Harvest Park won first place in middle school combo bands.
Next year's event has been scheduled for Feb. 8. Band boosters, meanwhile, are getting ready for their big annual fundraiser, the ninth annual Magic of Music, from 4-8 p.m. March 24 at the Firehouse Arts Center. In addition to a live auction and student performances, the night will feature "Tastes of Terror." Tickets for the fundraiser are $100 per person.