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Jose Baron back at East Union blowing his horn
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Retired East Union High school music director Jose Baron performs the national anthem on his signature trumpet at center court before the start of the girls varsity game Friday between Manteca and East Union at the Dalben Center. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

East Union celebrated the return of its music man, Jose Baron, this past weekend.

With a trumpet pressed to his lips, Baron played the national anthem for near-capacity crowds at The Dalben Center for the first time since retiring from East Union in 2000.

The Lancers’ girls’ basketball team hosted Manteca and Ripon on Friday and Saturday, respectively, in two of the biggest games of the season.

Friday’s crosstown matchup with the Buffaloes was laced with Sac-Joaquin Section playoff implications. Both teams are vying for one of three berths allotted to the Valley Oak League.

Saturday’s non-league game with Ripon is an annual partnership to raise money and awareness for breast cancer.

Baron helped stir excitement for both games, delivering captivating renditions of the national anthem. He also revved up East Union’s rowdy student section on Friday, serenading teens too young to know him with the school’s fight song.

No one has a closer connection to those notes than Baron, East Union’s original band director.

East Union girls basketball coach Jim Agostini said Baron helped write the fight song, as well as pick the school colors.

“He was East Union. He was on the ground stages of East Union picking its colors and choosing which song for the fight song,” Agostini said. “The tradition we have here, he’s one of the main contributors as to what East Union is all about.”

Baron served two stints as the school’s band director from 1967 to 1977 and again from 1992 to 2000. In between, Baron spent 16 years as an activities director.

The band room on campus is named in his honor. He was awarded the California Teachers Association’s Teacher of the Year award in 1998 and inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame in 1999.

“He is an awesome man. You see him and it still puts a smile on your face,” Agostini said. “As a student, when I was 15-, 16- and 17-years old, in my 20s and 30s, and now in my 50s, he just brings so much happiness to me.”

Before the start of Friday’s rivalry game, while the crowd readied for the introduction of the starting lineups, Agostini and Baron shared an intimate moment together.

The two hummed a note together, rekindling a relationship forged decades ago. Agostini was a member of Baron’s band while in high school.

“East Union has played an important part in my family’s life. My parents, my brother and sister, we were all graduates of East Union,” Agostini said. “We’ve been here since the beginning -- Day 1 of this institution -- and Jose was the band director.

“I can remember Jose taking 80 members to Southern California to march at Long Beach and they didn’t even have uniforms at the time. He’s digging up black pants and red blazers for the band. I’m all of 7- or 8-years old watching all of this. It was fun.”

And after all these years, Baron still has “it.”

Agostini said Baron plays in a mariachi band and entertains parishioners at St. Anthony’s.

“He can blow a horn,” Agostini said, “don’t kid yourself. He blows that horn every weekend.”