The 6th Man


Dexter Gormley, Zach Phillip, and Nathan Seto

Cheers erupted from the stands as Paly’s varsity quarterback, Jackson Chryst (‘19), scored a stunning touchdown after breaking two tackles. Without pause, the fans erupted. On the north side of the stadium, the stands shook and squeaked as the student section took to their feet.  

Out of nowhere, the Stanford fight song started playing; the crowd lit up. The familiar tune at ear-splitting volume threatened to shake the stands to their core. It was soon clear who was causing the commotion: members of the band who had come down to the front of the student section.

The sixth man is, by definition, the first person off the bench in a basketball game. However, at Palo Alto High School, the sixth man is so much more than that. They are the team’s depth, and they are not necessarily on the roster. They are often the people in the crowd with spirit and smiles that never quaver. They are the people that play music to inspire the Vikings to achieve both on and off of the field.

Each varsity win is impressive, but as impressive is the group of students who take it upon themselves to rile up the crowd and bring out the spirit that has become synonymous with high school sports. These students perfectly epitomize the modern definition of the sixth man.

The sub-band is a group of some of the most talented students at Paly, and their Viking pride is showcased at every home game throughout the football season. The group contains an assortment of instruments, with Javid Alasti (‘19) and Harrison Frahn (‘19) playing the trombone and Zach Weitzman (‘19), Lucas Washburn (‘19), and Miles Schuman (‘19) playing the drums.

Every second period the group practices, in addition to the band period. During this time, the band learns both traditional and popular music for Friday’s game. In many instances, they come up with new songs and cheers, hoping to hype up the student section.

Alasti, one of the band’s members, noticed a lack of Paly pride in the student section. Alasti concluded that the student section was loud and rowdy, but it was obvious that something was missing.

“We wanted to bring something to the students that no other school had,” Alasti said.  “We liked the yelling and shouting [of the old student section], but we knew that we could make it better.  People had told us that our music was really good, professional even, and that we should play in front of the student section; we gave it a try.”

Today, the band has become a staple of many Paly events. Their ability to play multiple instruments is almost as impressive as their ability to lead the student section. Each game, they do more than just direct a small group of students in many familiar cheers at each and every home game. They bring an unparalleled sense of community, and camaraderie to both players and fans, alike.

“We come up with cheers and lead the student section and the rest of the band to hype everyone up,” Alasti said.

The student section is traditionally a very spirited group of students, but Alasti and his friends focus their enthusiasm, calling out their cheers. They create many different chants while also playing some of the most popular, current music. Each strike of the drum improves the mood of the crowd, while also benefiting the player performance. Although the student section is a group of highly spirited students, cheering on the Vikings for nearly three hours can get tiring.

“During the third quarter, the student section usually starts to lose its pep and spirit and we enjoy playing and getting hype ourselves, so we kill two birds with one stone,” Weitzman said.

In addition to the band’s cheers between plays, they perform songs such as the Imperial March, when the defense makes a stop or the Paly fight song after a touchdown. They also showcase their talents during the halftime performance, unveiling the songs they practice throughout the week.

The band’s musical talent and overwhelming spirit has created a buzzing atmosphere at every game, creating a sense of joy and school allegiance. Even the players on the field feel it.  

“They [the band] add so much spirit to the games and keep the crowd engaged,” Hazel Shah (‘20) said.

Alasti and his fellow bandmates are much more than a group of musically talented and spirited students; they are students who have dramatically changed the demeanor of home games: bringing happy tunes and happy times.

Long live the 6th man.