The Spirit of the Sands History


In 2014, the band returned to China at the invitation of the Soong Ching Ling Foundation. They they continued to Taiwan where they were the first international band to perform at the National Youth Day, commemorating the sacrifice of 72 students during the overthrow of the emperor in 1911. They also exchanged with numerous bands from both countries and performed for the President, Cabinet Members, and high ranking officials during their visit.

Opening in 1938, Palm Springs High School was the educational centerpiece of the small desert community that attracted the "Hollywood Elite" as they played in the perpetual sunshine of the resort community.

Gus Patzner was the Band and Orchestra Conductor for some twenty five years 1946-1971. In addition to producing excellent musical ensembles, he is also the composer and lyricist for the alma mater "In the Silence of the Desert". From 1982 to 1994 the music program went through many transitions and seven different Directors in the course of twelve years. The string program was lost during this time as a result of the proposition 13 cutbacks and program numbers declined.

In 1995,  new directors came to Palm Springs High School. The program had shrunk to eighteen members, twelve instrumentalists and six flags, with many challenges facing the band. Coming from Las Vegas by way of Columbia, Missouri and Alberta, Canada, Brian and Beverley Ingelson joined the PSHS staff with a commitment to rebuild the band. The decision was made to return the band to the community focusing on charity events and community based activities rather than the competitive circuit. The group began to attract new members and by within a few months had built to twenty eight. A performance opportunity in Canada eventually led to the band traveling on its first international tour to Vancouver British Columbia in 1996 for the Hyack Festival. The band competed and received an excellent rating which eventually led to an offer to travel greater distance to perform on a world class stage.

In 1998, the band flew to Sydney Australia to perform on the main stage at the Sydney Opera House. Additionally, the band performed at the national Theater in Canberra and at Darling Harbour. The band then flew to New Zealand where, in addition to performing, cut their first CD The Spirit of the Sands Down Under. The band was subsequently awarded an award as the first CD recording to be produced in New Zealand and exported to the USA.

On the heels of their South Pacific Tour the band was selected to perform at the Convegno Bandistico Internationale Music Festival in Brianza, Italy in 1999 where they were one of eight musical ensembles representing their respective countries. The highlights of this tour included performing a live concert in front of more than 20,000 in the town square. Playing from 10;30 p.m to midnight the band held the crowd captive receiving a standing ovation lasting several minutes. The band also shared the stage with both professional bands from around the world including Russia, Greece, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, and Italy where the musicians formed a mass band to play The Hymn of All Nations from Sibelius' Finlandia. The band then travelled to Meaux, France where they performed at Disneyland- Paris.

In 2000/ 2001, the band travelled to London, England to celebrate the "true" millenium as they performed at Westminster Hall and the New Year's Day Parade with more than one million Londoners lining the streets. They also hosted two young British who, through winning a British Youth Music Contest, travelled to Palm Springs to perform with the Spirit of the Sands in the Hollywood Christmas Parade.

In 2003, the band was once again on the road as they accepted an invitation to perform at the inaugural Edinburgh Easter Festival and coupled this with an invitation to play at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. The students performed for more than 14,000 below the castle in Edinburgh and helped to add to the opening festivities of Tivoli's season opening. The group also had an opportunity to visit Malmo, Sweden as part of the sightseeing educational experiences which, of course, in an integeral part of every international tour.

In 2007, the Band embarked on yet another International Performance Adventure as they performed at the Beijing Olympic Music Festival in China. They performed to live audiences of more than 15,000 and were televised to more than ONE BILLION. They were honored to have the lead position at the Great Wall leading 22 bands from 17 countries through a medley of Olympic themes.

In 2004 the Spirit of the Sands Symphonic Band was selected to perform at the California Music Educators Association (CMEA) State Conference in Sacramento. The band was joined by guest conductor Tony LaBounty (Assistant Director of Bands UNLV) and Euphonium virtuoso Adam Frey. Representing Southern California was a great honor and a wonderful experience for the students.

In 2005, the band returned to Australia performing at the Sydney Opera House, in Canberra (Australia's Capital city) and then flew to New Zealand to perform in Auckland, Rootorua, and Napier. The tour includes nine additional performances including colleges, High Schools, and Music Galas. The tour also included the presentation of nine instruments and six flags to build an instrumental music program at a destitute school in central New Zealand. This is the beginning of the band's "Musical Missions:" to help establish music education programs throughout the world.

In 2009, the band embarked on yet another adventure as they traveled to South Africa performing at the Capetown City Hall where Nelson Mandela delivered his historic speech after having been released from prison, at the Guguletu and Soweto Townships in Capetown and Johannesburg  respectively, and at the Afrikaan Fine Arts School in Pretoria. Highlights of cultural sightseeing included visiting the Cape of Good Hope, Cullinen Diamond Mine, False Bay, and a safari where they  experienced African wildlife in their natural habitat.

In 2012, the band traveled to Wales, England and Scotland to introduce a new generation of musicians to the musical heritage of the United Kingdom.  They again played at the Edinburgh Easter Festival (now the Edinburgh Spring Festival) with more than 25,000 in attendance.

In 2013, Palm Springs High “Spirit of the Sands” was selected form more than 2800 applications to represent California at the 57th Inaugural Parade in Washington DC. Marching in the footsteps of America’s Presidents from Jefferson to the present and becoming part of American History

In 2016, the band performed in Croatia and Slovenia for the first time in Eastern Europe. In addition to sightseeing in Dubrovnik, Trigor, and Zagreb the band undertook joint concerts with community and arts school ensembles. In 2017 the Pihalnega orkestra Glasbene šole Konservatorija za glasbo in balet Ljubljana under the baton of Dirigent Jože Kregar came to the United States hosted by the Spirit of the Sands during their first intercontinental tour and renewing friendships with members on both sides.

The group not only represents the country and state when traveling, but also performs at more than one hundred events per year in the Palm Springs area including ComiCon performances, conventions, conferences, school, district, civic, and charity events. They have also performed for numerous celebrities and political officials. More than eighty percent of the band members are on the school honor role and  one hundred percent of the group’s regular graduating seniors qualify and attend colleges or universities across the country.

In December of 2017, the Spirit of the Sands, the City of Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Tourist and Resort Association, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians hosted the World Association of Marching Show Bands (WAMSB) World Championships in Palm SPrings, the first time it had been held in the United States. Under the direction of Brian and Beverley Ingelson, the event was held over five days and featured more than 20 bands from Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Brazil, China, and the United States.

On the heels of the successful WAMSB World Championships, the Spirit of the Sands returns to the United Kingdom to perform at the 2018 New Year’s Parade and Concert Festival.

In 2019 the Spirit of the Sands traveled to Dublin Oreland to perform at the St Patricks Day Parade with performances at Mansion House and the Ray D’Arcy “Tonight Show”.