By Barbara Zaragosa / South Bay Compass
The town of Chula Vista, California happens to be home to the World Champion Drum Major, Jason Paguio. He’s the only Filipino-American to have run for city council (at the age of 28), he’s a current policy advisor to councilmember Steve Miesen, and he operates two non-profit organizations as well as a small for-profit business.
Jason has so many pots bubbling that San Diego Business Journal gave him the 2014 Emerging Generation: 25 in their 20’s award.
I sat down and talked with Jason and you’ll soon see why I call him the rising star of Chula Vista.
Filipino-Americans Need Representation
Jason’s father was born in the Philippines in 1949. He joined the United States Navy in his mid-twenties and was a company commander at NTC, among other positions. After being petitioned by the U.S. Navy, he went back to the Philippines to marry Jason’s mother. They returned Stateside in 1978 and moved to San Ysidro. There, they raised three boys: Joe, Justin and Jason (the youngest).
Jason’s mother was a lab tech, while his father served the Navy for thirty years. Most of the time, his father was stationed at 32nd Street in San Diego.
Jason attended Nicoloff Elementary School and then Chula Vista Junior High (now called Chula Vista Middle School). At the time, Nicoloff Elementary had a very good reputation for funding the creative and performing arts for kids. In particular, they had a pull-out program for students who wanted to play musical instruments and Jason started to learn the trumpet.
The Trumpeter & Drum Major
When Jason started Chula Vista Junior High, it was considered to be an arts magnet school. His brother Joe had studied trombone and voice, while his other brother Justin had studied the bassoon. They were both drum majors in high school, winning many awards, and Jason naturally followed in his brothers’ footsteps. His parents were very supportive of their sons’ music endeavors, so Jason grew up watching drum major and marching band videos or watching his brothers practice and compete.
In Middle School Jason became the drum major of the band for one year. During that time, middle schools still had marching bands and he competed in parades as well as the Maytime Band Review — which, by the way, Jason is on a committee to bring back to the city.
By high school, Jason was the assistant drum major at Chula Vista High School. Then, when he was a junior, his father retired from the Navy and it looked like his parents were going to move back to the Philippines. He transferred to Rancho Bernardo High School during his second semester, thinking he would live with friends. In the end, his parents stayed in the United States, but Jason stayed at Rancho Bernardo and received one of the best music educations through its marching band. Although he didn’t make drum major, he did play the trumpet and became first chair.
His parents, on the other hand, opened the Star Bakery in Chula Vista, which they owned for about ten years and only recently sold.
From Marching Band to World Drum Major
During his junior year of high school, Jason also joined a Bagpipe Band and thanks to this interest, he went to Scotland. There, he practiced spinning the mace and entered the World Drum Major Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2003 he competed as a juvenile in the 18 & under category, taking 3rd place.
Every year since, he has gone in August to participate in the Drum Major competition at the World Pipe Band Championships. In 2007 he even won the World Championships. He was awarded the mace for one year, which left the United Kingdom for the first time in its history.
The Silver Mace
“It’s an authority piece. Universities have these elaborate maces. College and high school bands have smaller drum major batons.”
The mace Jason received each time he won the World Championships (which now has been more than once) dates back to 1952. What’s unique about his World Champion mace is that it was cast one year before Elizabeth was named Queen, so it actually displays King George’s crown at the top.
The practice leading up to the championships is always rigorous and Jason has started to craft the art of drum majoring in his own way. “Now I actually put in a lot of weight training and flexibility. I wanted to take it to a completely different level… I wanted to change the perceptions of how people saw Drum Majoring. I wanted to make it very athletic, but also regimented to it’s original roots of being militaristic and keeping up with military standards. It comes from what the Scottish pipe bands are based off of. The term drum major actually came from Scottish pipe bands. So drum major was actually a military designation and it still is.”
Jason’s mentor, Alan McBride, lives in Northern Ireland. He is a five-time world champion and his name appears on the mace alongside Alan’s sister, Violet McBride, who was the first female to ever win the World Championships. At one point, Jason contacted Alan to ask him for help. After that, he would send Alan VHS tapes of his performances and receive critiques. He would also go to Ireland one week before the Championships in order to receive training. Jason said Alan became not only a drum major mentor, but also a life mentor.
Two Non-Profits & a Manufacturing Business
Jason’s musical interests led him to establish a manufacturing business called Regimental Mace Company, one of three companies of its kind worldwide that specifically sells unique drum major equipment.
If that weren’t enough, he also established Parade Band Foundation, a non-profit organization that hosts what the San Diego Chamber of Commerce has said is the premier event in Chula Vista. The foundation, which was established in 2010, also raises money for marching bands throughout San Diego County.
In addition, Jason established the non-profit World Drum Major Association, Inc. in 2008. Partnering with the world’s largest marching organizations, such as Marching.com, the organization has two major functions: “one being a scholastic drum major circuit where we have probably over 50 high schools and probably somewhere around 200 drum majors competing throughout the year. And then we have a drum major camp, which is a partnership with SDSU, so we do leadership where we have business leaders and community leaders come in and it’s more than just drum major coaching, it’s how to be an effective leader in your organization, school and community. We’ve taught several hundreds since it’s inception.”
Jason is probably the youngest of the board members. The others are successful attorneys, doctors, professors and even an owner of one of the largest non-profits for musical theater in Northern California. Every single person on the board was once a drum major. “It’s all about mentorship and leadership.”
From Drum Major To Civic Engagement
From coaching marching band for several years to running two non-profits, Jason says becoming civically engaged was a natural progression. Thanks to his many mentors, including the Director of the School of Performing Arts at Chula Vista High School, Ron Bolles, Jason became involved in organizations like the Chula Vista Charitable Foundation. He was the Vice Chair of the Cultural Arts Commission and involved in the South Bay Alliance for Arts Education.
Then, in 2014, he ran for city council. He was 28 years old and the first Filipino-American to run for office in Chula Vista.
Jason notes, “We have about 3.7 million Filipinos in the U.S. and we are the fastest growing, but we have no U.S. Senators, we have no Congressional leaders.”
Jason lost the elections, but when Mary Salas became mayor her council member position opened. It was up to the Chula Vista City Council to appoint a council member. Out of 44 applicants, 8 were selected to be interviewed during a televised City Council Meeting — Jason was one of the eight, alongside former Mayor Shirley Horton.
In the end, Steve Miesen was selected. A few weeks later, Jason approached him and asked if he could participate in any way. Miesen suggested that Jason become his policy advisor and now Jason works part time in an office at City Hall.
Speaking of Miesen, Jason said, “He is one of the few office holders I found that genuinely cares about the community. He’s not a politician, which is what I really like about working with him.”
Right now, Jason says the most exciting happenings in City Hall is work on the Economic Development plan. “We’re trying to streamline the process and get rid of redundancy. Miesen really wants to accomplish this in his two years in office: streamlining the permit process to make business have an easier time locating here.” He also noted, “We have 80,000 people who leave the city everyday to go to work, but we haven’t identified what the workforce is. When we are able to identify the work force, companies will come and invest in the city.”
Will He Make Another Run?
I asked Jason what his future plans were both in music and politics. He said his exact plans were not etched in stone. However, he will certainly continue working in both. “Elected or not, working as a staffer or in the community, I think there’s always avenues to accomplish what you feel to be right in the community.”
All photos courtesy of Jason Paguio
Updated 7/1/15 to correct spelling of Steve Miesen’s name.