The leader of the winning San Pedro High group calls back, leaving school with briefcase full of trophies – Daily News
The group leader walks on the sidelines, leaving behind a stack of trophies and a fan club of students and parents from San Pedro High School.
Darnella Davidson last led the school’s marching band at the graduation ceremony last week. The Manhattan Beach resident arrived at San Pedro High in 2015, but before that she was a group teacher in Los Angeles High School, which she led to 25 consecutive city championships. Her teaching career spanned 38 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
His groups have performed in film and television, at NFL games, and at the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Along the way, some celebrities have performed with his groups including creative artist Debbie Allen, comedian George Lopez, singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams and singer Rosemary Clooney.
She received the Honorary Life Membership Award from the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, representing more than 1,000 schools in the region. She was the first African American and woman of color to receive this honor.
Her own career path was inspired by her mother, who was also a teacher. Davidson began his musical education on the piano.
“Then my mom took me to a soccer game,” she said.
The award-winning and powerful fanfare of the Grambling State University Marching Band performed. She was addicted.
The next day – she was in sixth grade – she announced that she wanted to play in a band.
The clarinet came next and the call of his life was made.
The group, she said, “is a culture, it’s a way of life.”
When she arrived at San Pedro High – replacing 21-year-old group program leader Paul Purdy after her retirement – she had a job:
“I was hired to create a championship group,” Davidson said, “and that’s what I did.
“San Pedro had all the elements to make it work,” she added. “It was up to the children to decide whether they wanted to do it or not. “
The group, at one point, won back-to-back Southern California and Citywide Championships.
But the band is more than drum lines and fight songs, she said.
“What students get out of it is an invaluable experience in learning to manage life,” Davidson said. “You learn to solve problems, to work as a team, to cooperate, to work with other members of the group with whom you get along or not. Ultimately, you have to work together.
In 2018, Davidson received a national honor from the Country Music Association in Nashville.
She was one of 34 educators from across the country to receive the Music Teacher Excellence Award. Only four of the teachers were not from Tennessee.
Davidson, the mother of a recent college arts graduate, clung to the motto “No excuses, just results.”
In addition to teaching orchestra, she has taught piano, beginner’s instruments, wind band, jazz orchestra, color guard, and wind and percussion ensembles.
“She’s one of the best educators I’ve met,” said Tony White, who leads the LAUSD All-City Marching Honor Band, in a written statement. “And she continues to inspire many of us.”
Known as the Golden Pirate Regiment, Pedro’s Marching Band won five city championships at LAUSD and five more from the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association. They have also performed on TV, at music festivals, and at Disneyland (annually).
“His passion and dedication is unparalleled,” said Lou Mardesich, administrator of the San Pedro school community, in a written statement.
Unfortunately, the selection of the group to represent the State of California at the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC, could not be completed. Their appearances have been canceled twice – in 2020 and 2021 – due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Davidson’s students, including the seniors who joined her during a last performance of the group at San Pedro High during the graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 10, reflected on their time under her wing.
“I transferred (to San Pedro) my sophomore year,” said Denise Hicks, graduate. “And she welcomed me with open arms.”
Other students called her strict, but personal – and role model.
“I don’t think I would have joined my freshman year,” said bassist Edith Moreno, “if it wasn’t for her.”
His goal, Davidson said, has always been “to inspire students to believe they have unlimited potential.”
Retirement won’t be boring, she says.
Davidson was appointed Los Angeles County Arts Commissioner by Supervisor Janice Hahn and she will continue to work with All-City and District groups.
She will also work with a National Institute of Conductors, for which she will run a clinic in Georgia at the start of this assignment.
His replacement for the San Pedro Marching Band in the fall will be Marc Manriquez of Santee High School, which is also part of LAUSD. Davidson described him as having “good energy.”
As for San Pedro, well, she is grateful to the community, especially the parents.
“It’s a community that has really embraced my work,” Davidson said. “And it was an absolute pleasure.”