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Serra Band Celebrates Successes, Seeks Alumni

Grads sought to participate in Saturday’s Santa parade

By Bonnijean Cooney Adams
The Tube City Almanac
November 16, 2021
Posted in: Entertainment, McKeesport and Region News

Strains of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” greeted visitors to Serra Catholic High School as the band prepared for a playoff football game — while also getting in some practice for McKeesport’s Salute to Santa Parade.

The band is seeking alumni — even those who have not picked up a flag or an instrument in years — to march along with current students in this Saturday’s parade.

It was also a time to reminisce and celebrate a successful competition season, where the group was named the 2021 Tournament of Bands Western Expansion Region Group 1A champions for “El Matador.”

“I am unbelievably proud of them,” band director Jesse Bush said. “I couldn’t be happier with how they performed this season.”

Back in August, with one week of band camp under their belts, the students, Bush, and color guard director Susan Frank weren’t sure how everything would come together as the show continued to be tweaked.

Senior trumpet player and drum major Joe Crossen was featured as the matador, complete with an appropriate costume, solo, and even some nice dance moves.

He is one of two drum majors, with duties shared by senior percussionist Abigail Bernick.

Crossen said “El Matador” is his favorite show in his Serra band career.

“Other shows were more abstract,” he said. “Other bands we talked to (during competitions) complimented this show.”

He said based on the success of “El Matador,” he is disappointed the band did not continue to compete beyond regionals, but said he knows that decision has to be made months in advance, which Bush confirmed.

Sophomore flute player Robbie Anitori said he is very proud of the results and is looking forward to next year.

“I think we did really well, and I’m pretty excited for next year,” said Ava Wos, who plays clarinet and also is a sophomore.

Senior Paige Rock already knew she had a flute solo and would portray the beautiful lady in the crowd who catches the matador’s eye, but her role was one of the things still being developed back in the summer.

In addition, decision makers decided to showcase her strong background in dance as part of the storytelling process.

Soloists junior Maigen McGinty on tenor sax and senior Jordan Premozic on bass clarinet added their talents.

At the Championship competition at Penn-Trafford High School last month, Serra scored 87.45 for an adjudicated first placement that included High Music Award, High Visual Award, Best Percussion Award, and Best Auxiliary Award.

Bush said the band received firsts at all but one of the TOB regional competitions.

The musicians aren’t the only ones pleased with the season. Frank’s color guard members also came through despite being relatively inexperienced at the start of band camp.

“This was my favorite show so far,” junior color guard captain Madalyn Peairs said.

She said she’s also excited that Serra is bringing back Winter Guard, which Frank said they haven’t had since at least 2010 or even earlier.

“I loved it,” sophomore Katelyn Kostrub said. “I got to play the bull. It’s the best experience I have ever had.”

“I came in knowing nothing about color guard,” sophomore Sydney Korbanic said, “but I ended strong.”

Serra’s championship performance can be viewed at

While time is getting short for the Salute to Santa Parade performance, Bush said he’s looking for some Serra Catholic band and guard alumni to join them.

“We’re doing the parade by ourselves for the first time this year,” the director said. “Usually we join with McKeesport (Area High School Band).”

He cited COVID concerns as the reason why each band will march separately for the parade, which kicks off along Fifth Avenue beginning at 11 a.m.

According to the notice seeking Serra alumni, even those who have not played or spun a flag in awhile are welcome. The signup form is available at

After signing up, music and a guard routine will be emailed, and the music does not need to be memorized. Marching percussion instruments and guard flags will be provided.

“El Matador” participants are: Robbie Anitori, Paige Rock, and Lyndsay Chirdon, flute; Jordan Premozic, bass clarinet; Carmela Capasso, Ava Wos, and Taylor Betzner, clarinet; Michael Aland, bari saxophone; Joel Blake, alto saxophone; Maigen McGinty, tenor saxophone; Selena Kunsman, Joe Crossen, and Mickey O’Brien, trumpet; Jackson Scott and Cassie Ward, trombone; Vincent Brown, Abigail Bernick, Joseph Pawlowski, Jacob Rock, and Emilia Capasso, percussion; TJ Betzner, guitar.

Color guard: Madalyn Peairs, Alivia Arelt, Brigid Fuller, Katelyn Kostrub, Francesca Aland, and Sydney Korbanic. Soundboard/Flyover Flag, Brooke Rock. Flyover Flag, Andrew Massari.

“El Matador” drill writer is Serra history teacher Ryan Raible, with original music written and arranged by Randall D. Standridge.

Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a freelance contributor. She can be reached at

Originally published November 16, 2021.

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