Behind the Scenes of CME: Battle of the Bands


Kaitlyn Xiong, Staff writer/copy editor

On March 22, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., the fifth annual Battle of the Bands will happen in the multi. The Battle of the Bands is an event where students can showcase all their hard work; it presents the result of collaborating students and a supportive, engaging community while enhancing the creative, academic, and leadership skills of the students.

At Vista del Lago High school, the Contemporary Music Ensemble program has immersed its students into the music community, allowing them to create, express, and explore their love for music–either with their vocals or instruments. The CME program is one of the few programs offered in Northern California, engaging the 200 students that have joined.  

 The central focus of CME is performing, songwriting, improvising, composing, arranging, editing, and recording the arts. The program members work hard to put on a good show, yet the hard work put into getting the program and performances ready for showtime goes unrecognized. Students must audition and prepare songs of their choice or propose songs that they have written or covered in order to get into the class. From there, the chosen bundle of Vista students perform during both A and B lunches, rallies, and school events.

The students get to decide the themes each year, and this year’s theme is based on songs from the students’ childhoods.

“We will spend like… a half hour to 40 minutes to figure out this theme because we brainstorm a bunch of different ideas. I eliminate the ones I know are not going work,” said Vincent Martini, head of the CME and Masters Guitar program at Vista.

Martini then stated that the themes are narrowed down to a few concepts where the students stand up and discuss their choice. “It’s neat to see opposing views done in a way where it’s peaceful,” said Martini. Once the theme is chosen, students face challenging workloads with the short amount of time they have before they hit the stage.

Martini states that students are “only given about two and a half weeks to put together a couple songs.” Other than choosing the theme, CME students also must choose songs they want to make their own.

“It’s hard to find out the instrumentation because we’re trying to recreate it, so that’s something we can reinvent,” said senior Shreya Acharya, a performer in the Battle of the Bands.

“It’s something that [the students] know they need to rise to the occasion and replicate,” said Martini about the challenges faced. “You’re dealing with ensembles anywhere from four to six people, so they all have a role to play and they have to put that together.” He adds that “everybody counts on everybody,” and that “you can’t have somebody that’s halfway there. Everybody’s got to be fully on board to make it happen.”

The work ethic of the students and the atmosphere of the program enables the students to perform to their best ability. Acharya expressed that the class is “really laid-back” and “focused.” Despite this, the students are always on top of their work. “There are days where we do goof around, but we all want the same thing– to put on a good show,” said Acharya.

As the person in charge of the program, Martini describes the class as collaborative. “This class is very much about collaboration, no one’s really on their own doing something musical,” said Martini.  Other than collaborating and creating, he emphasizes that students are doing a lot of thinking. “They have to do a lot of the decision-making, critical thinking, working with others, and what makes it exciting is that they [the students] are put in a situation where they can express themselves musically at a very high level,” said Martini.

As one of the judges for the Battle of the Bands, Jessica Mann, an English teacher at Vista, is looking forward to this event. Mann has been a judge for the last five years and is excited for the “end products of the students’ works.” As a judge, she has a few expectations for the performances. “I think we really like to see contestants who are polished and know what they are doing,” said Mann. Other than a polished performance, she also takes into consideration the “costumes, props, dancing, the stuff that really gives them stage presence.” As for the Folsom community, she encourages “If you can, stay for the whole thing–just because we always have a wide variety of different talents.”

In addition, the audience turnout does help boost the energy of the performers. “Don’t be afraid to get loud, because we love it when the audience participates along with us,” said Acharya. Despite the fact that the Battle of the Bands is a competition amongst the students, the community comes together to celebrate their love for music. In preparation, Vista students are working hard to fulfill the expectations for this event. Their hard work and perseverance will keep them feeling pumped for the Battle of the Bands.