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Click to play MIDI

One of the original band parts for the “Sea King March,” in 1975-vintage purple Ditto ink. Click it to hear my “virtual pep band” play the piece. (This is a 678-kilobyte MP3 file. If you have a slow connection, you can try this 26-kilobyte MIDI version that your computer’s built-in music synthesizer can play.)

If you went to Palos Verdes High School (PVHS) in Palos Verdes Estates, California between 1975 and 1991, you’ve almost certainly heard the “Sea King March.” You might not know it by name unless you were in the band, drill team, or cheerleading squad. But you would likely recognize the spirited music the marching band played before football games, and when the Sea Kings scored a touchdown. The pep band also played it at basketball games.

The PVHS band started playing the “Sea King March” at basketball games at the end of 1975. By resolution of the student council, it became the “official fight song” in 1976. It served in that capacity until the school closed in 1991. (For readers outside the United States, a “fight song” is a fast march associated with football games at universities, usually dating from the early decades of the twentieth century. Several of them have become quite famous, and are frequently appropriated by high schools to cheer on their football teams. And of course, that’s American football, not soccer.)

Before 1975, the PVHS fight song was “On Wisconsin,” the fight song of the University of Wisconsin— and of probably half the high schools in the United States. The marching band’s pre-game music at football games also included the “Notre Dame Victory March,” belonging to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana— and to most of the high schools that don’t use “On Wisconsin.”

More significantly, “On Wisconsin” was the fight song of cross-town rival Rolling Hills High School (now called Palos Verdes Peninsula High School). At the PV-Rolling Hills football game in 1974, our band started to play “On Wisconsin” a few seconds after the Rolling Hills band started playing it. It struck me as absurd for two “rival” schools to use the same fight song. The epiphany from antiphony inspired me to write something that would be unique to PVHS.

Due to the changing demographics of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the school district closed PVHS in 1991. But over the next decade the demographics changed again, and the school reopened in 2002. During that summer, the new principal contacted me about resurrecting the “Sea King March,” among other discarded PVHS traditions. (And I really do mean discarded. The two sets of original marching band parts now in my possession, including the one shown at the top of this page, were recovered from a garbage dumpster.) I took the opportunity to make a new arrangement, using music notation software so the band could finally have readable typeset parts. If you’ve got perfect pitch, you’ll notice that the new version is in A-flat instead of B-flat. That’s meant to make the range of some instrumental parts more comfortable for young musicians.

Putting the score in electronic form also means I can put a “performance” of it on the Web. I made the MP3 version using Finale software and Garritan library samples to create a 23-piece “virtual pep band.” Although it’s obviously synthesized, it’s a reasonable enough facsimile. The alternative MIDI version will sound like a circus calliope or an accordion on most computers, but you’ll get the idea. Either way I hope that, at least for some of you, hearing it invokes pleasant memories.

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