By LAUREL BUSBY
Since 1975, the Oom PaPa band has been providing music and fun for Pacific Palisades.
Aside from 2020, when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the parade and other events, the band has been a regular part of not only the Fourth of July parade, but also Christmas festivities and other local events.
Although the band has local origins and mostly consists of Palisadians, people from across Los Angeles County also join the group each year to make the parade more festive.
Palisadians Gene Romig and Sandy Schaefer started the band, and the name Oom PaPa is not only inspired by peppy marching music featuring brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments, but also by PAPA, the Palisades Americanism Parade Association, which orchestrates the parade.
Five years after its inception, the band’s current leader, Mark Eisenberg, heard about the group from his high school friend, Palisadian Nancy Morrison. He soon joined the band as a trumpeter, and then, in 1986, he took over the role of drum major and music director. This year will mark his 43rd year in the band.
“All of us love it,” said Eisenberg, an attorney who lives in Playa Del Rey. “It’s a great group of people, and we’re all dedicated to having fun on the Fourth of July.”
Eisenberg’s wife, Marla, began managing the band three years ago after longtime managers Margot Morrison and Phyllis Schlessinger retired, and the Eisenbergs’ children, Michael, 16, and Emma, 14, have been joining the parade since they were babies—first in strollers and now as playing members.
Michael, who has played both the drum and trumpet in the parade, “told me two days ago how he can’t wait to play the trumpet this year,” Mark Eisenberg said in early June. Emma, who previously played the clarinet, will take charge of the cowbell this year. “They’re both excited to come back and play again.”
Both Michael and Emma have also invited friends to participate, which means an estimated 10 more young people will join the group, their father said. These newer band members join a stalwart group who return year after year to play together.
Every June, the band begins to gather to practice its repertoire, which includes “76 Trombones” and “Louie, Louie.” Every Saturday morning, on a grassy median on Pampas Ricas Boulevard, the older members help the newer ones get the hang of the tunes, and they’re soon marching up and down the street, entertaining the neighborhood.
“The veterans pick it up where they left off,” Eisenberg said. “It’s just a given. I used to worry that we wouldn’t have a good showing each year, but there’s always this solid core of 20, and every year we expand our ranks to 35 or 40…. For a lot of the people in the band, this is their only opportunity to play. Being part of the community and going out on the Fourth of July to do something bigger is a time-honored tradition.”
As always, the Oom PaPa band welcomes new members. Practices are Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Contact Marla Eisenberg: firstname.lastname@example.org.