The History of School Bands at ESCHS

Despite national trends against arts education, the East Side Band Project has nurtured several generations of student bands. In 2009, Tom Mullen and James Joughin started ESBP (then a modest afterschool program known simply as "rock band" under the resident University Settlement Beacon program. A stable of "workhorse" gear, consisting of Squiers, Epiphones, a Pearl student model drum kit, Peavey amps, a Yamaha keyboard, and a small stereo PA system was put together on a shoestring budget of $5,000. East Side student musicians formed a set of bands that rehearsed in our storage room. The rehearsals culminated in performances at the legendary Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

Gustavo Valdes With James' departure in 2012, the project entered a second generation. A new band, consisting entirely of middle school students, was brought together under the guidance of Peter da Cruz, history teacher, and Tom Mullen, assistant principal. The band members had little to no prior musical training, and almost none of them owned instruments. But they were passionate and committed. In time, they would take on the moniker "Custer's Last Band," inspired by a history lesson on Manifest Destiny. From the outset, It was made clear that band members would not just learn parts but learn musicianship, including theory, notation, dogged tenacity, and professionalism. Soon they were fortunate enough to be vi