Mark R. Madler
In the years since the members of the Burbank Police Boys’ Band last
made music together, they have gone on to successful careers in many
fields in many parts of the country.
But later this month they will come together for their first-ever
reunion to reminisce about the days when they were part of one of the
top youth bands in the area, taking part in events such as the
Tournament of Roses parade.
“I’m more interested in them than the people I went to high school
with,” said Brian Hill, a graduate of John Burroughs High School, who
now lives in New York. “We had that common denominator of music.”
Hill joined the band while attending Jordan Middle School and
remained until 1967, when he left for college.
He publishes a newsletter for band alumni and is the principal
French horn in the New York Repertory Orchestra.
In existence from the 1950s to the late 1970s, the marching and
concert band at times had up to 200 musicians who wore black wool
uniforms nearly identical to those worn by Burbank Police officers,
their sponsor along with the city’s park and recreation department.
As the name would imply, all the musicians were boys, but its
auxiliary units of flag carriers, majorettes and rifle twirlers were
made up of girls.
“It was the area youth band at the time,” said Joanne Miller, who
had been a majorette for four years for the band. “You had to
audition and qualify. It was very prestigious to be in the unit.”
The reunion was organized by Miller, a local business owner, and
Bill Kuzma, a musician in the band who later became its director and
who now works for the Newark Unified School District in Northern
The response so far from band alumnus has been tremendous and she
expects up to 200 people to attend, Miller said.
“There is an attachment you just can’t outgrow,” Miller added.
“Between Bill and myself there are many members we still keep in
Founded in 1953 by Ben Porter, the band attracted musicians from
the city’s junior high and high schools for more than 20 years.
Some members continued in the music business while others found
fame in films, such as one-time clarinet player Tim Burton.
The band morphed into a co-ed ensemble named the Burbank Police
Youth Band that disbanded in the late 1970s.
Burbank Police Department Lt. William Berry recalled that as a
trombone player in the early 1960s he was taught discipline and how
to strive for excellence.
The group had such fierce pride that it could often outplay bands
twice its size in competitions, said Berry, one of three officers in
the department who are band alumni.
Although his interest in the trombone waned once in college,
participating in the band still had an influence on Berry’s career
“We would talk with the officers and they would give us tours of
their cars,” Berry said. “It’s what got me interested in police work,
especially in Burbank.”