After finding success in the first few competitions of the year, members of the Santa Monica High School Marching Band and Color Guard are eager to make a return to the field for a pair of upcoming tournaments in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Since its establishment in 1915 under the direction of Arnold Wagner, the Samohi marching band and color guard has been no stranger to success, according to the team’s website. “The band is one of the oldest high school bands in California and has a rich heritage due to outstanding instruction, a long history of community support and its location in proximity to the entertainment industry and premier west coast artistic community.”

This is the first year the band has competed in Division 5A in some time, according to team officials, but the move to a larger division hasn’t impacted the teenage musicians as the team secured an overall music effect sweepstakes award and placed first in the 5A division for both its band and color guard routine earlier this month during the Baldwin Park Field Show Competition.

The team also secured a first-place finish in the 51st annual Simi Valley Band Spectacular, according to Samohi’s Director of Bands Kevin McKeown, who said the two tournaments were a nice start to the beginning of the year but there’s plenty more work to do before the team can call itself a champion.

“We’re excited and we’re also showing we can compete in a larger division, which is really great,” McKeown said in an interview Monday. “This is something that only works if everybody buys in and I think our first few finishes show that the group has bought in — and that goes for students, parents and directors.”

McKeown said he and his students will be on campus this week at 7 a.m. preparing for the three field shows that will occur within the next two weeks because the Vikings are expecting some stiff opposition during the coming competitions.

More than 35 marching band and color guard teams have been invited to showcase their skills during the 36th annual Rampage tournament, which is the first of two field shows occurring in the Santa Clarita Valley that Samohi will participate in beginning this Saturday.

“Every week teams are adding effects to their shows and routines,” McKeown said. “We started later than most bands so we are still adding to our routine and I’d be confident saying we still have more to add than most in terms of content.”

Santa Clarita is where some of the best bands are, the band director added, before mentioning how students like to compete up north because they have some of the best backdrops. “And it’s just a really nice place that is close enough for travel but far enough for the kids to feel like they’re going somewhere different.”

The Vikings will only have 48 hours to recover from a show in Valencia before they head to the Savanna High School Field Tournament at Glover Stadium in Anaheim with rifles, sabers and props in hand.

By the end of the first full week in November, the team will have competed against more than a thousand performers from various Southern California high schools, but McKeown said if his team has done well up to that point, the group can secure one of the 12 available spots at the SCSBOA Field Show Championships in Downey on Saturday, Nov. 16.

The team doesn’t have to win each of the remaining competitions, McKeown said, “but we have three more tournaments and we’re looking for three high qualifying scores to put us in a position to compete for a medal at the SCSBOA field championships.

“So every tournament matters,” he added.

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