Wilson Middle School Will Close, So What Will Become of Vaunted Drum Corps and Lions Head Jazz Band?

Published : Wednesday, December 18, 2019 | 5:32 AM

[Editor's Note: This story has been updated because a Pasadena Unified official today disputed that Marvin Hatchett will make an announcement regarding the music program's future at tonight's event. Pasadena Now had previously been led to believe an announcement was in fact in the offing.]


Woodrow Wilson Middle School’s renowned Drum Corps and Lions Head Jazz Band is in jeopardy of ending after more than 30 years because the school it is affiliated with is set to close down this year.

Could a holiday miracle be in the offing? With the fate of Woodrow Wilson Middle School already sealed with its impending June closure, the future of its treasured musical programs, led by a beloved security guard-cum-music man, has been cloudy.

Now comes word the group’s founder and leader Marvin Hatchett might make an announcement on Wednesday at the group’s Christmas show, a Pasadena Unified spokesperson said.

Hatchett’s day job is to be a security guard at Wilson, but his calling has been to teach performing arts to kids there. For more than three decades, Hatchett has run the program at his own expense.

The school doesn’t have a formal music education program.

PUSD Board Member Dr. Elizabeth Pomeroy (left) and Wilson Middle School Security Staff and music program director Marvin Hatchett in 2017. Image courtesy PUSD

He has said he was hopeful another school will keep the program going.

Hatchett receives no income in return for his musical endeavors, and when he’s able to secure donations, he uses the money to buy musical instruments for the Wilson School Drum Corps and the Wilson School jazz band, The Lion Heads, both of which he coaches.

The group has won honors and awards over the years including its selection to play Gold-level performances in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and Nashville during 2019.

The drum corps performed in the Rose Parade in 2014 and has been a regular feature in most Pasadena events including the City’s Christmas tree lighting event, the Black History Month parade, and other important dates in the City.

In 2016, the Wilson Drum Corps was part of Disney’s Performing Arts Onstage program and performed to a satisfied crowd with the Wilson School Lionheads.

Some of Hatchett’s students and band members have gone on to become professional musicians, and they come back to Wilson whenever they can to visit Hatchett and see the new members of the drum corps and the band.

Hatchett sees himself as just a caring mentor and would not want to be called a hero.

“A hero? It’s them (referring to his students),” Hatchett says. “They’re my heroes.”

The program’s final Christmas performance — and Hatchett’s announcement about the future — will unfold at Wilson Middle School, 300 Madre Street tonight starting at 6:30 p.m.

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