Wong continues the legacy of PHS pep band

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Holden Walz

Junior Wilson Wong sat alone on the San Jose State University stage with faces from schools all around the Bay Area. Nominated for the California Music Educators Association Honors Band, Wong’s mouthpiece for his baritone saxophone sat above the rest of the instrument, ready to guide him to a performance that was years in the making.

“I had chosen to play the trombone [during elementary school] because I thought it was cool, [so,] for like three years, I just kind of faked playing it,” Wong said.

Wong said that he grew interested in playing the saxophone when a cousin taught him the basics, and he realized that he really enjoyed playing it.

He said that his love for music extended into playing with a group of friends at the school talent shows and into a high school level band.

“I really wanted to be in the jazz and pep band but I had a horrible jazz band audition,” Wong said. “But, after [pep band] had started playing at football games, I just fell in love with [band] all over again.”

This year, Wong is one of the student conductors of the pep band alongside senior Sophia Ware. During the band’s performances and on days when music teacher Andria Mullan is gone, the two conduct the band, Wong said.

“One of our goals together is to create a fun environment in the classroom and also on the field. The games get pretty long so we want to keep people engaged,” Ware said.

“Wilson is a great musician, spirited, and excited about what we’re doing, and he was enthusiastic about having this role and I think he’ll be a great leader for the group,” Mullan said.

“It’s going to be difficult to bring back our old status as the cheerleaders of the school, but it is something we are going to do,” Wong said.

Wong said that he thinks a lot on the history of the student conductor role for the pep band, as the former student conductor, Thomas Yu, helped guide him into his place in the band.

“As much as I want to be just like him, I know I won’t be able to live up to those expectations as I’ll never be the best, but the only thing I hate is someone being better than me,” Wong said.

Wong said that during the band’s first performance at the sept. 10 football game, he could feel his connection to Yu.

“I remember playing for the school [as a freshman] and I asked Thomas ‘How do you yell so loud,’” Wong said, “[after our first performance this year,] those exact same words were said to me.”

The band’s lack of upperclassmen and veteran players led Wong to be a bit nervous about his ability to get the band together and become a beacon for Piedmont’s games, but after their performance he said that he was proud of his team.

“I want him to be someone that the students are excited to follow,” Mullan said.

Along with pep band, Wong said that he wants to take band and music outside of school. His street performing group recently expanded into a club at PHS, with the goal to help fundraise for music charities.

“There were so few leadership roles [for music], so we just want to be there to represent [PHS],” he said.