BELDING — On a crisp fall evening with a full harvest moon hanging in the sky overhead, the city of Belding was marching to the beat of the drum of many enthusiastic, impressive high school bands.
With 10 area high schools represented, from the nearby Rockford Rams to the long-traveled Durand Railroaders, the Belding High School marching band played host to the annual Belding Invitational Saturday night from Rudness Field.
As a member of the Michigan Competing Bands Association, the Marching Redskins, composed of 108 Belding High School students, marched in their first competition of the season in the Flight IV category to a capacity crowd of many hometown fans who came out to see the students put on a show that is sure to strike at the heart of anyone who watches.
With a theme titled “Rosie: A Tribute to the Greatest Generation,” the Marching Redskins put on a show that played out several emotional and key events from World War II, with a focus on the women who stayed behind to do their part during the war.
“It’s a tribute to World War II and the women that were at work when their husbands went off to war,” Belding Band Director Laura Hyler said. “The band creates the emotional setting with the music.”
By hosting the invitational, Belding was not eligible to compete on the night against other bands for awards, but still marched the competition as an exhibition event, competing to see where they stand as they prepare for their next competition in another two weeks.
“They did as best as they could do and they performed at their level,” Laura said of her band. “I’m really proud of them and we’ve got a lot more we can work on, which is the best thing. There are so many positive things that we can work on.”
Belding High School Principal Brett Zuver said he was very impressed by his students on the night, as well as moved by the patriotic show.
“Every time you hear that siren and the 21-gun salute and they start to play taps, it gives you goosebumps every time,” he said. “The amount of work they’ve put in, every day and every week, is incredible. I saw them at the very end of band camp in August and I thought it was very good then, but this was fantastic. It was a perfect night and everybody seemed to be hitting their steps and their strides and notes. It was a really cool presentation.”
Field commanders Mitchel Dykla, 17, a senior, and Tayler Reeves, 16, a junior, directed the band on the field with perhaps the best view and perspective of the band’s performance on the night.
“We were just used to football games where maybe half the people are paying attention, but at this event, there were at least a thousand people and they are all concentrated on you,” Dykla said. “It’s a completely different atmosphere that we haven’t been used to yet, but I think we handled it well.”
Dykla said, based off of the home crowd’s reaction, he thinks the show was an excellent choice for the band to perform this year.
“It’s a show everyone seems to enjoy,” he said. “We go from big impact music to swinging jazz and to some slower moments when we play taps, so we’re hoping that grabs the emotional aspect of maybe even people who were veterans in the war.”
Reeves said that despite marching the competition as an exhibition event, she was proud of her fellow band members but saw a lot of room for improvement before the band competes for a state championship at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 3.
“I thought we did very well and we do have a lot of room to improve, but we have come a very long way from where we were to begin with and I’m very proud of our performance,” she said.
With nine other schools visiting, hundreds of spectators packed into Rudness Field throughout the evening, creating an atmosphere that easily rivaled any Friday night football game.
“Every time I’ve been to a performance like this, it’s been packed,” Zuver said. “Support is wonderful, parental support, community support, it’s just great.”
Zuver said the new turf and advancement in surroundings at Rudness Field helped performances go smoothly as each band took the field.
“We’ve got a lot of new, wonderful facilities that we are very proud of and not afraid to show off,” he said. “Every time we’ve hosted an event this year we’ve had many people mention about how nice the facilities have been, and I’m sure tonight is going to be the same thing.”
Hyler couldn’t agree more, and as the signature event in the band program’s fundraising efforts, she said she was pleased with the turnout for the event.
“I couldn’t have asked for this event to go better tonight,” she said. “Things just went awesome. I have the most amazing set of parents that came together to help out and this community is just so supportive of their band here.”
At the end of the night, Hyler and her fellow staff members retreated indoors to review their performance and prepare for their next competition. The band will perform five times on the season with its three best performance scores averaged together hoping for a high enough total score to compete for the state championship.
“We’re a young band this year, very young, but so far so good,” Hyler said. “This was our first competition and we have four more, but this was a good starting point.”
Click here for the complete results of the competition.