Bryan Luiten, a four-time Bands of America Regional Champion, says that band changed his life: “It has taught me self-confidence, work ethic, strength of character, and the priceless value of friendship.” 

As a tenor saxophone player, jazz lover, and band nerd at heart, Bryan did not feel like he fit in with the kids at his school. That all changed when he happened upon an Ayala High School (CA) marching band practice. The efficiency with which the band rehearsed, combined with the dedication and passion of the students made Bryan feel right at home. He knew this community was something he had to be a part of, so he decided to transfer. 

Navigating the transition into a brand-new high school was overwhelming, but the band community at Ayala made Bryan feel immediately welcome. The whole band cheered and applauded when band director Mark Stone congratulated Bryan on his transfer on the first day of band camp. Having a mentor who believed in him and a community that supported him instilled Bryan with newfound confidence and strength of character. 

In his time at Ayala, Bryan performed at multiple Bands of America (BOA) regionals, including Ayala being named the Bands of America Regional Champion at California Regionals in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Bryan’s band worked hard to make these successes happen, but they also had fun. Spending time at competitions with others who shared the same interests allowed Bryan to build the meaningful friendships he had been seeking. The familiar trust that went hand in hand with these friendships only made the band stronger.  

This proved true when the Ayala Marching Band performed at BOA Grand National Championships at both the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium. Bryan recalls being nervous playing in front of a large crowd, in a new stadium, and on the other side of the country. Yet, knowing that his friends –his band family –were all as prepared and excited as he was calmed him. It only took one last step through the airlock doors and the wind blowing onto his face to know his band was prepared to put on the best show they could.   

Today, Bryan works as an aerospace engineer for Boeing in Long Beach, California and still stays in touch with his high school band friends. Bryan says to always remember that you should love what you do, and for him this was marching band and BOA. It led him to his community, taught him life skills, and helped him forge lifelong friendships he will never forget. “I now look back on this time and realize that this was probably the greatest decision I had ever made in my life. It has earned its value many times over and I am very thankful to have been a part of it.”