ELOY — Despite a smaller student population, the Santa Cruz Valley Union High School band program has continued to fine tune its sound in recent years.

And the efforts are being recognized.

Since joining the Arizona Marching Band Association’s competitive circuit in 2015, the band has made improvements every year and has built a solid foundation for future success. This year has been a highlight year for the band, as it finished first in the 1A division at two different events.

Band Director Josh White has been a main reason for the band continuing to both improve, and find success. White graduated from Santa Cruz in 2000; he was valedictorian for his senior class and went on to Grand Canyon University where he studied music education. In 2006, White had the chance to come home to Eloy and take over as director. He said that he was excited to come back, but it was also frightening at first.

“It was a little bit scary at the time just because I was new to teaching, so that within itself is scary,” White said. “Fortunately because I was a good student and had a good reputation, and a lot of the teachers already knew me, they were very gracious with me despite my mistakes in those early years. I consider myself blessed to have been here for 15 years.”

Although Santa Cruz is the second smallest school that competes in the AMBA circuit, the Dust Devil band has been turning heads with their performances in 2021. The band finished first in both the Walden Grove and Sahuarita shows, and fourth at the University of Arizona Band Day Competition.

Despite finishing well in those three competitions, the band ultimately finished outside the top 20 in the 1A State Championships. White said although he was disappointed in the performance, he was pleased with the improvements the band has made all year.

For White, it is nice to see the band’s hard work paying off, but more importantly to him, he loves being able to work with kids everyday and loves teaching them how to be better musicians.

“I am blessed to get to do what I do, and I feel that the kids are excited about what they are doing,” White said. “This year, 14 out of the 30 kids we have never marched before, so I am very pleased with the progress we have made and the improvements we have made each year. I think we are on the right track, and I am very excited for the future here.”

The Santa Cruz band will hope to continue hitting all the right notes in future competitions.

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David Church is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. He can be reached at dchurch@pinalcentral.com.

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