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In Memory

James Campana


Tri-Valley Times

By Robert Jordan Correspondent

Posted:   05/09/2013 12:00:00 AM PDT


PLEASANTON -- James Campana had a knack for leading bands.  Whether it was the band he founded as a junior in high school to spur on the athletic teams at Balboa High School or the Amador Valley High School program he led for three decades, Campana knew how to get the most of out of his musicians.  "He just had a love for music and he wanted to share that love," said Lisa Garon, one Campana's four children. "He wanted to be remembered for taking the average musician and bringing them to higher standards and to perform greater than they thought they could."

Before his death, Campana mentored, taught and pushed thousands of musicians as the band director for the Amador Valley High School band from 1959 until he retired in 1979.

Campana, 86, died April 26 of natural causes in Livermore, said his son, Paul Campana.

A native of San Francisco, Campana was born Sept. 3, 1926 to Arthur and Katherine Campana. He graduated from the city's Balboa High School, where he formed the Balboa Blues Boys, during his junior year. The Blues Boys played at school athletic events, and the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed Campana the Tommy Dorsey of Balboa High, said Paul Campana.  Campana took his love of music to San Francisco State, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in education and a master's in music.  Amador Valley High School hired Campana in 1959 to lead its band, a position he held for 21 years before retiring. Campana and his wife, Rosemary, both taught in Pleasanton with his wife teaching at Valley View and Pleasanton elementary schools.

"He was very good when we were growing up to exposing us to all kinds of music," said Campana's daughter, Terri. "We could never play the contemporary music on radio -- he didn't like it."  Campana's children were also exposed to the band.  "Oh yes, we had no choice," said Campana's daughter Tina Wilbur about her and her siblings joining the band. "We had to go to band camp freshman year."

The Campana children all played some role in band and credit their father and mother with instilling a strong work ethic.  "He had a passion for teaching and he wanted you to achieve excellence," said Campana's daughter Lisa. "You had to work for it and all of us in the family did our jobs to the fullest. We pushed ourselves, that is what he taught us."  Campana's musical legacy is still felt in Pleasanton with the annual Campana Jazz Festival, which he founded in 1975 as the Amador Valley Jazz Festival. It was renamed in his honor following retirement.  Campana retired in 1979 in part so he could spend more time with his wife and his four kids, said Paul Campana, who also said his father enjoyed family vacations and parties.  "He loved his family and he taught us that family time was real important," he said. "The toughest part about losing him is he won't be here for the next party."

Campana and his wife, Rosemary celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary in July 2012. Rosemary, 81, died in August.  Campana is survived by his children Lisa Garon of Pleasanton, Terri Campana of Palenville, N,Y,, Tina Wilbur of Sonora, Paul Campana of Fremont, and five grandchildren.


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06/19/14 01:11 PM #1    

Kurt Allan Wallace

I was never in band but I do remember the singular excellence they exhibited.  It's hard to remember now but at one time, NFL teams had high school bands play during halftime.  Amador's band had the distincition of playing one of these halftimes for the Oakland Raiders.  However, bands were not supposed to play in back to back years since there were so many in the bay area.  However, I seem to remember they did such a great job they got invited back again the next year...a very unique honor and a tribute to them and Mr. Campana.



06/20/14 05:48 AM #2    

James Annis (Annis)

I was in band all four years at Amador.  We played at a Raider game each of my sophomore, junior and senior years.  One year, I believe the fall of 1968, we played at the Raider game towards the end of the season send they liked us so much they asked us back two weeks later to play in a post-season game against the Houston Oilers.  We did the same routine, the 90 yard "can can" line, and it was broadcast on NBC. Great memories.

06/25/14 11:35 PM #3    

Bruce Anglin

With regard to that playoff game against Houston, I had a tape recording of that broadcast though I don't know if it still exists. I remember the halftime score was 28-6 Oakland. The band played "The Stripper" and as the band played, the TV coverage team was describing various key plays from the first half.....and in my crazy mind with words spoken such as "great play" it sounded like they were describing an actual striptease LOL. And their play descriptions ended right on cue at the end of the song.

06/26/14 05:29 AM #4    

James Annis (Annis)

Bruce. Great memories, huh?

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