Beneath the High Sierra, our Alma Mater stands

Beneath the High Sierra, our Alma Mater standsBruce Auld, a former Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent, is writing the history of Burroughs High School. The articles that are being published are excerpts from his upcoming book, exclusive to The News Review.

Burrough’s music programs began with the 1946-47 school year. Karle Q. Major, Burrough’s first music teacher, composed the Burros’ Alma Mater, which was introduced at the pep rally and bonfire the night before the 1948 Homecoming game with Barstow. It was played again at the Homecoming game half-time during the official naming of Bob Kelly Field on the original Burroughs, later the old Murray campus. That year, the concert choir in its first year, had seventy-five members. There was no orchestra, but there was a dance combo, the “Swingsters.” (1949 El Burro)

Over the course of some seventy years, this Alma Mater has been played after every home football game with the football team standing on the team benches, facing the crowd and holding their helmets high. The Alma Mater was also the finale at every commencement ceremony, that is until the commencement of 2019. In 2019, most high schools across the country conducted “drive-by” virtual commencements, as did Burroughs.

Hope Sizemore Fielder (BHS 1981) heard that the class of 2020 would also not experience the traditional stadium commencement. “I was trying to figure out what could sweep across all classes and be able to honor and welcome the current (2020) class into the group we call ‘Alumni.’ What would be the common thread, represent tradition and span across all the years Burroughs has existed? The Alma Mater. In years past, it represented unity, school spirit, tradition and making it home safely from a long trip on a school bus.” (Hope Sizemore Fielder BHS 1981)

Hope contacted Bruce Rockwell (also BHS 1981), who “note-smithed” a new arrangement of the Burroughs Alma Mater, to honor the 2020 graduating class. Alums were invited to record their voices singing or playing on their instrument of choice, the Alma Mater and submit the recordings to Bruce, who digitally mastered the individual recordings into a single audio presentation. Hope put together a video of still photos. Bruce combined the two, which instead of being the commencement finale, was gifted to the class of 2020 as the ceremony commenced in the Burroughs gymnasium. Burroughs ASB advisor Laura Larson was essential in helping to coordinate this gift to the class. (Interview with Hope Sizemore Fielder)

“I am so proud of the alumni coming together to make a positive contribution to a very long, trying year. As I always say, ‘It’s a great day to be a Burro!” (Hope Sizemore Fielder) The Burroughs Alma Mater Project video is available on the Burroughs Alumni FaceBook account.

“Bruce Rockwell is a Bay Area composer whose work spans all genres, with emphasis on vocal music. Having studied with Conrad Susa and David Conte at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, his music is noted for its unabashed lyricism and accessibility. Bruce has taught at the San Francisco Conservatory (Pre-College Division), the San Francisco Waldorf schools, the San Francisco School for the Performing Arts and College Park High School. In the early 2000s, he was founder and director of the San Francisco Song Festival. His music is published by Swirly Music, Walton Music and E. C. Schimer.” (Swirly Music website)

But there is more on the Burroughs Alma Mater. Dr. Bruce McClung (BHS 1979) generously video recorded Bruce Rockwell’s arrangement on a church pipe organ, which is also hosted on the Burroughs Alumni Facebook account.

Courtesy Photo: Bruce Rockwell (BHS Class of 1981) directing the College Park High School Concert Choir in the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. His choir sang the National Anthem at a Warriors NBA game.

Story First Published: 2022-01-07