Homestead - South Dade

U.S. Navy Band to perform with students at South Dade High

Andrew Zweibel, band director at South Dade Senior High School, conducts a rehearsal with his advanced class. Eleven of his most experienced students will perform alongside the U.S. Navy band on March 2.
Andrew Zweibel, band director at South Dade Senior High School, conducts a rehearsal with his advanced class. Eleven of his most experienced students will perform alongside the U.S. Navy band on March 2. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The U.S. Navy Band, whose mission is to provide musical support to the president of the United States, is coming South Florida in early March to perform at South Dade Senior High School in Homestead during their national tour.

The Navy Band has about 170 enlisted musicians, all recruited from the top music schools and professional musical organizations. They play more than 270 concerts and 1,300 ceremonies each year, including performances at the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. Since their inception in 1925, the band has participated in 21 presidential inaugurals.

“Not only are they one of the top ensembles in the country, they are one of the few that are made up of professionals,” said Andrew Zweibel, band director at South Dade high.

When the trumpets blare and the snares rattle during the opening strain of John Phillip Souza’s The Washington Post March, the Navy Band will be accompanied by 11 young musicians from the school’s advanced band class.

“There will be at least one kid in each instrument,” Zweibel said.

Senior Devin Gajus, 19, said that when he first heard about the opportunity to play his instrument alongside professionals of that caliber, he immediately called “dibs.”

“It’s kind of an accomplishment for me,” said Gajus, who has played the trumpet since the sixth grade.

Students have been fundraising and seeking sponsors in the community to pay for advertising and tickets and provide dinner for the band.

Under the baton of Capt. Brian O. Walden, the band will present a variety of popular and classical pieces in the 950-seat school auditorium.

Zweibel hopes the event will encourage students to continue joining the school band.

In his time at South Dade High, he has seen steady band enrollment, now at about 120 students, even as some of the fine arts programs at local middle schools were closed. To compensate, the high school has emphasized beginner’s courses for band, percussion and color guard.

“The culture has really shifted. Students get excited to see the band perform during football games and in their competitions,” Zweibel said. “The biggest change is the attitude of the kids. They’re serious and are at higher levels of performance.”

Gajus admits he has grown more confident after years of performing in the high school band.

“I was that person who would be like, ‘please don’t pick me for a solo,’ ” Gajus said. “I used to have that gnawing thought about screwing up, but now I tell myself, ‘I’ve played this so many times.’ ”

The Navy Band is also dedicated to promoting the education of young musicians through various programs, such as the Music in Schools program, the High School Concerto Competition and the International Saxophone Symposium.

The event is free, but Zweibel said those planning to attend must reserve a ticket online to get in. Tickets may also be picked up at 5:30 pm on the day of the performance in the school auditorium box office. Any unclaimed seats will be available to non-ticket holders just before concert time.

After the Navy’s performance, Zweibel is also preparing to host about 40 schools in the county for the band district competition that same week.

Juliana Rodriguez, 17, said it’s always a little nerve-wracking to perform in front of an audience, but she loves playing music and even hopes to become a high school band director someday.

Rodiguez, who plays both the flute and the piccolo, was chosen to join the U.S. Navy Band onstage during their performance at the school.

“This is really exciting for me,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is such an honor.”

If you go

What: U.S. Navy Band National Tour

When: 7 p.m. on March 2.

Where: South Dade Senior High School, 28401 SW 167 Ave.

Cost: Free, but must reserve a ticket.

To reserve tickets, visit