The Great Spartan Band
Central Union High School is located in El Centro, California, the county seat of the Imperial Valley, an agricultural area East of San Diego and just North of the Mexican border. Our student population is just over 1700 students with over 80% Hispanic with English as a second language. The students in the instrumental music program either audition for the bands or can begin an instrument in high school. The current program offers beginning band, stage band, marching band, concert band, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, and music appreciation.
The 2008 Marching Band participated in the Hermes and Endymion Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans. This was the 30th anniversary of the 1st Mardi Gras trip for which the band earned a standing invitation. The Spartan Band has also traveled to Mexico City, Hawaii, Florida, Mexicali and Tijuana, and has participated throughout California at numerous festivals and events.
The current band director, Renee Baker, is a 1980 Central alum and was in the instrumental music program while in high school. Since taking over in 1996, the CUHS instrumental program has doubled in size, after the addition of the second high school in El Centro, with the marching band yearly over 100 instrumentalists plus flags, majorettes and drill team. Over 10% of the school is involved in the band program.
The Jazz Ensemble has participated in clinics with the San Diego State Jazz Band, Maynard Ferguson, Ronald Carter, Arturo O’Farrill and has attended concerts and met with Tower of Power, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Roy Haynes, and the Wynton Marsalis Septet. The Jazz Ensemble yearly competes in the Essentially Ellington Jazz Band Competition through Jazz at Lincoln Center and has been in the top 20 twice. Locally, the Jazz Ensemble has won the Corona Jazz Festival and Coronado Jazz Festivals.
The Spartan Bands continue to promote the traditions and pride of the bands that have come before. Many Central graduates are professional musicians and teachers. Smooth jazz recording artist, Walter Beasley is a 1979 graduate of Central. Others still in music include, Brent Locke, Bobby Gallegos, Bonnie Annes, Adam Marquez, Jordan Morita, Clark Baker, Derek Cannon and Michael Cannon. Jimmie Cannon, the director from 1966 to 1996, passed away on May 21, 2009 at the age of 80. Numerous scholarships have been endowed in his memory to continue his legacy of music and education. Jimmie Cannon’s Valley Jazz continues into its 2nd decade, directed by founding members, Sal Ortiz, Clark Baker and Renee Baker. Without the Jimmie Cannon legacy, the Spartan Bands would not be what they are today.