La Verne Magazine
Mark Capablo: Your Local Music Man
by Gloria Diaz
photography by Jason Cooper
They play jazz standards, joke, laugh and learn before most people have even
risen from bed. Mark Capablo leads the 6 a.m. Bonita High School Jazz Ensemble,
an award-winning band that continues to be one of the most distinguished programs
in the United States.
Bonita High School plays a big band sound like no other. That sound is the
one of an award-winning marching band, jazz band and orchestra. For the eighth
consecutive year, Mark Capablo has been the man behind the sound. Under Capablos
direction, the Bonita High band program has appeared on the music competition
radar. Bonitas band has earned prestigious accolades, including awards
from the Tournament of Champions, the largest high school band competition,
where it took home most of the major awards. At this years competition,
the band captured the day show competition.
My philosophy is that I try to make kids motivated to experience music
by doing it well, says Capablo. I want them to get excited.
Capablo, 42, not only leads the high school musical programs, but he also heads
the Ramona Middle School programs. His daily schedule is hectic and eclectic.
At 6:30 a.m., zero period, he arrives at Bonita for jazz band practice and remains
there for the first half of the day. Following, he has 10 minutes to get to
Ramona for his next class. There, Capablo teaches three music classes: winds,
symphonic band and the sixth-grade band during the afternoon. Every Tuesday,
Wednesday and Thursday, he returns to Bonita for after school band practice
from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. I love it, says Capablo. I like
to see kids get excited when they make progress.
While other high school teachers prefer to be addressed by their last name,
Capablo would much rather be called Mr. C. I let them call me Mr. C. because
it is a lot easier than saying my name, he jokes. It is his loose coupling
style of teaching that brings the best out of his students and motivates them
to excel. On a typical band practice day, the students bring out their instruments
from the old wooden cupboards and tune their instruments while Capablo sits
in his office. A chaos of musical notes fill the room as 20 different instruments
play 20 different notes at once. A few students talk to him in his office about
band-related issues. They know when I am serious, but we joke around a
lot, and I yell at them a lot too. It is a love-hate thing, but they probably
hate me, he laughs.
Through a window, he looks out into the room where the noise of instruments
originates. Papers are scattered across his desk, with only a small corner salvaged
for the phone. As he finds time to pause, Capablo says that 20 years ago, teaching
high school band was not what he had in mind as a performance major from 1982-1987
at California State University, Northridge. While playing in the Tim Lamarca
Big Band, fellow member Robin Snyder told Capablo that Bonita High was looking
for a band teacher. Capablo applied with Snyders recommendation and was
Finally, the time has come to begin the jazz band class. Capablo emerges from
his office, and the random practice noise subsides. He stands beside the piano
and plainly gives the command scales. With one word, the students
know it is time to play. The guitar, piano, xylophone, saxophones, trombones,
trumpets and drums all begin to practice the scale routine, note by note.
Capablo brings out his own trumpet and begins to rehearse with the band. He
has played the trumpet for 30 years and is also skilled in all the wind instruments,
piano and the drums. The trumpet is my main instrument. I wouldnt
think of playing the piano or the drums professionally, he says.
Capablo taps his right foot to start off the beat. Snapping his fingers and
counting 1- 2, 1-2 -3, the band fires up with North Texas Warm-Up.
He listens attentively while conducting. He finally hears a flaw and holds out
his hand in a fist; the band stops and receives instruction. Its
not long. It needs to be long, not choppy, he explains. If it is
not long, it doesnt sound hip. Everyone needs to articulate the same sound.
He points to the saxophone players sitting in the first row and shows them how
bar 16 is supposed to sound. They play; then he plays. Capablo continues this
procedure with the trumpets and the trombones. Over and over, they play the
bar until it sounds right. Finally, they have it; its perfect. Now they
can play the entire piece. He will let you know if you are doing something
wrong, says Brian Hensputter, junior and jazz band drummer. He is also
a member of the marching and concert bands. since his freshman year. When
we are critiqued at competitions, the judges say that we have a good director,
he adds. He knows what hes doing. Hes turned the program into
one of the best in California, says Bonita High sophomore Rami Haschache,
who has known Capablo since he was a fourth grader at La Verne Heights Elementary.
There, Haschache joined the band directed by Capablo. Its his devotion
to the band, and how much he cares about it that makes us care about it too,
says Haschache. Hes more like a friend than a teacher.
Some stand, some sit, but they all attentively follow their music sheets.
They seem to have some trouble starting the next piece.
Youve got to be ready to go. Youve got to lock into a groove
right away, he tells them. The Alta Loma group messed up this part.
Bonita High competes against Alta Loma, but the school that Capablo thinks is
the toughest competition is South Hills High School in West Covina. But he notes
that the competition changes every year. We try to play our best. If we
can do that, then we have reached our goal, says Capablo. During the practice,
he works with the horns for 10 minutes to perfect the introduction. It seems
tedious, but as he exclaims, Every detail has to be perfect if we want
to compete with the big boys.
Bonita senior and jazz band guitarist Alicia Koch has known Capablo for five
years, starting as an eighth grader at Ramona Middle School. She wanted to go
to a high school specializing in performing arts but stayed at Bonita because
she knew Capablo wanted it to be the best. He is very motivated to do
good; that is what gets a lot of people motivated. Its his attitude that
gets us coming back.
Before he started here, marching band was a small program. He has built
it up to what it is today, says BHS Principal Robert Ketterling. Jazz
band has always been strong, and he has kept that going. Now that Capablo
has brought Bonita High out of the shadows, he shares his talent and dedication
with the music program at Ramona Middle School. Mark has increased the
participation in the music program. The relationship with the students has been
very positive. The kids work well with him, says Carl Davis, Ramona Middle
School assistant principal.
When the day is over, Capablo drives home to Rancho Cucamonga, where Robin,
his wife of 17 years, his son Vincent and daughter Daphne welcome him. Keeping
busy is part of my personality. I try to keep myself busy, he says. As
for the future of the band program, Capablo says he wants to continue what they
have been doing. I feel like we still have more to achieve, and we are
working toward that.