Marching to the beat of a different drum major

Carl Robinette

Fri October 25, 2013 12:49pm

Inside the Starbucks at Eastlake Village Marketplace, world champion drum major Jason Paguio hefts a drum major’s mace onto one of the little tables and sits as if he’s just done the most natural thing in the world.
Maces are those long staffs bandleaders toss and spin through the air in parades and football games, but this mace is more peculiar than most. It symbolizes Paguio’s hard won victory at the 2013 World Drum Major Competition in Glasgow, Scotland. Known as the Captain Charles Hepburn Mace, its wooden shaft is topped with polished metals and covered in the engraved names of past victors.
Paguio, a 27-year-old band instructor at Eastlake High School, is the first person outside of the United Kingdom to win the championship and earn a spot for his name on the Hepburn Mace.
“So if somebody wants to know who the first American world champion is, when they go to look it up they’re gonna say, ‘What the heck? It’s a Filipino guy,’” Paguio joked, with a trace of pride in his laughter.
Paguio was born to immigrant parents and its obvious he feels a strong connection to that part of his culture while he jokes modestly about his Asian-American upbringing.
“Every Asian has to play an instrument, right?” Paguio said about learning to play trumpet and piano at a young age. He makes light of the stereotype but his two older brothers were both high school drum majors before him and that bit of sibling rivalry helped develop his competitive drive.
And the competition is stiff with more than 17 countries and 8,000 drum majors, pipers, dancers, drummers and athletes fighting for the top spot in their categories at the World Pipe Band Championships, which is more than 100 years old.
Paguio is no stranger to the winner’s circle. He took the juvenile championship in 2004 and won his first adult title in 2007. After that he won in 2010 and again at this year’s competition.
 “I’m hoping to break my every-three-years streak,” he said with barely noticeable superstition about his victory pattern.
Paguio insists that drum-majoring is a sport, and like any sport it comes with its rivalries. As returning champion everyone will be aiming to knock Paguio off the podium next year, but his biggest opponent will be his own schedule. When he’s not teaching and competing, Paguio performs in concerts around the world. He is also managing partner and founder of a drum major equipment manufacturer, CEO of the World Drum Major Association and president of Parade Band Foundation, which is gearing up for its annual parade at Otay Ranch Town Center. 
Along with several charitable ventures, Paguio is also a founding member and volunteer of the Chula Vista Charitable Foundation’s grants committee.
“It’s one of the things I’m passionate about that gives back to the community,” Paguio said.