image - pit band
Musicians prepare to accompany Half Moon Bay High School's performances of "Mamma Mia!". The show opens this Friday. Kyle Ludowitz/Review


The whine of the electric guitar is punctuated by the high-pitched scream of power tools as the Half Moon Bay High School pit band and the Coastal Repertory Theatre set-building team toil away in preparation for the school’s upcoming musical.

While there have been pit bands playing alongside Half Moon Bay High School musical performances in the past, this band is unique in the fact that it is composed solely of high school students. 

“This band is somewhat smaller than pit bands usually would be. Usually, we’d have 15 people, and, this year, there’s about nine people,” said Casey Co, who was also the marching band’s drum major. “I feel like with smaller bands, you get to know the people who are in them better. It’s been great being able to play music with them and just to get to know them, because they are all amazing.”  

The band’s sound is tight as they work through the musical numbers “Entr’acte” and “Under Attack.” Sneakered feet tap in time with the beat. Nonverbal communication flows freely between band members. It’s something auxiliary percussionist Corwin Jones and the others rely on in order to keep the whole thing moving. 

“It is very important that we are able to communicate with each other,” said electric guitarist Justin Porto. “We are playing our instruments so we can’t talk to each other. We have to find other ways of communicating with each other. 

“That can be done a lot through practice, through a lot of body language,” he continued. “We’re all in a band. If we’re not communicating with each other, it’s just not going to come together. Communication is very important. In all sized bands, it really matters.” 

Bass guitarist Sara Gorman and drummer Owen Fung provide the glue that keeps the whole thing humming along.  

“You really have to be making eye contact and be working together,” said Gorman. “Because, if both of us are doing different times or different rhythms, the whole song falls apart and that’s just not good. It’s tapping your foot, and nodding and keeping a steady beat.” 

“I’m very good at internalizing the beat,” added Fung. “It is stressful though because everybody is relying on the drums to keep the tempo of the whole thing.” 

As a female bass player, Gorman finds herself a bit of a trailblazer. 

“It is kind of rare to have a female bass guitarist. It’s mainly a male instrument,” said Gorman. “I started out on guitar and then I was asked to switch over to tuba or bass. I chose bass because there are way too many guitar players. 

“I hated it at first because my fingers would always bleed,” she continued. “It’s really hard to play when (starting out). You have to get calloused hands. The more I played it, the more I enjoyed it.” 

The “Mamma Mia!” musical is shaping up nicely.  That is due in part to an effort that includes students and community volunteers. 

“It’s always so much fun to do a musical here because everyone comes out to help,” said Half Moon Bay High School music director Walter Anderson. “The students from the cast come, they help out. You’ve also got Doug McCurdy from Coastal Repertory Theatre with his volunteers.

“It’s not easy to put this on. It takes a lot of work, a lot of coordination and a lot of time,” he continued. “When it comes together at the end, it’s really a great experience.” 

McCurdy and his ‘A-team’ of set designers descended upon the high school to bring the completion of the set over the finish line. A pristine white and blue Grecian cottage stands alongside the Summer Night City Taverna. Both pieces are juxtaposed against a clear blue sky complete with cotton candy clouds.  

“A lot of the Half Moon Bay High School kids come and volunteer for this,” said Greet Jaespart, who is a producer at Coastal Rep. “This is really a kid-built set. However, for the last crunch, Doug asked all his Coastal Rep people to come.” 

Performances of Half Moon Bay High School’s “Mamma Mia!” are set for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday as well as 2 p.m. on Sunday. A second weekend of performances are also scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 22 and 23 as well as 2 p.m. on March 24. All performances take place in Half Moon Bay High School’s multipurpose room. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased by visiting

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