High school marching bands bring life to autumn season

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 12:40 pm on Thursday, August 15, 2013


Belding High School senior Andrew Swider, 17, plays the mellophone during a rehearsal last week at Rudness Field in Belding. — Daily News/Cory Smith


As summer begins to wind down, there are many elements that begin to signify that autumn is approaching. Leaves begin to shift from green to various shades of orange and red, temperatures turn from warm and humid to crisp and cool and families prepare as the school year begins once again.

But another sign of autumn comes in the sound that can be heard nearly every Friday night. As residents and fans pack into home stadiums and students take to the gridiron to best their weekly foe, the initial kick of a leather football is a sure sign that autumn is upon us.

But the game isn’t the same without a certain sound; a sound produced by as many, if not more, students who are on the field attempting to win the game.

That sound is the beat of a drum. The crash of a cymbal. The echo of a trumpet fanfare.

Carson City-Crystal High School senior Trevor Schafer, 17, plays the quads during a rehearsal last week at Carson City-Crystal High School. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Each autumn, hundreds of students take to the field to put on a show within a show as members of a marching band.

Students such as Belding senior Johnny Adame, 17, find themselves part of a marching band because it’s just something they’ve come to love.

“I just have a passion for music, it’s something I thoroughly enjoy,” Adame said. “It builds character, it takes a lot of effort to put on a good show.”

Adame is part of the 116-member Belding High School Marching Band. Each member has put in hour after hour the past week preparing their halftime show, memorizing music and marching drill.

“There’s a lot of work that goes on,” Adame said. “Thirteen hours put into one day, marching around with your instrument, back and forth, memorizing your music and each set that you march to — it’s a lot of work.”

Adame is putting in his fourth year, but members like freshman Alyssa Johnson, 14, are taking to the field for the very first time.

“It’s hard at first, because I don’t really do very many athletic things,” Johnson said. “But once I get the hang of it, I just fly along and it becomes quite easy. You can become black and blue in the face, but in the end it’s totally worth the sweat and tears.”

One might ask why a student would decide to put in the extra hours, to give up their Friday nights, to put on a musical show they themselves won’t have a chance to watch.


Belding High School Band Director Laura Hyler said the answer is obvious, as the organization provides the students with opportunities they can’t get anywhere else.

“I tell them all the time, there’s no other organization like this, we are a family,” she said. “We have tough times and we have good times, but we always stick together.”

In Greenville, it’s more of the same.

Students in the 120-member band are spending this week preparing for the Danish Festival parade, after having spent a long week preparing their halftime show.

Senior drum major Jacky Hilliker, 17, said she enjoys band because it’s an organization where everyone can belong.

Members of the Greenville High School Marching Band practice exiting the tunnel and marching onto the football field during a Greenville Marching Band band camp rehearsal earlier this month at Legacy Field in Greenville. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“You don’t have to be one certain kind of person to be in band. You can be a sports person, you can be a nerd, it doesn’t matter. It’s like a family,” she said.

Greenville High School Band Director Susan Gould said the life lessons that can be gained from participating in a high school band are truly valuable.

“For any high school student, anytime you can belong to a team of any kind, you gain a sense of group identity,” she said. “Being a part of the marching band provides that. Every student should find some sort of a niche someplace in school and band can provide that. There’s an artistic element, a performance element, it takes little pieces of everything.”

But with the fun and fulfillment also comes the hours of work and effort, which can sometimes be grueling, both physically and mentally.

“I’m a three-season athlete, so it’s a challenge,” said senior band captain Madison Sorsen, 17. “I get home, and I still have to balance my homework and everything else. I’ll be up till 2 a.m trying to get my work done. But I like to stay busy and I love all of us being together. It’s just so fun, being out here on Friday nights and putting on a show.”

Gould added that the physical demands can equal, if not excel that of a student who participates in a sport.

“Think about anybody who’s up moving continuously for three to four hours at a time, it’s very physically demanding,” she said. “Then, you’re playing an instrument on top of that. You have to have the lung stamina if you’re a wind player, a percussionist has the additional strain of carrying weight and the colorguard members have to be more aerobic as they are dancing constantly.”

In Carson City, the band may be small at 35 members, but the sound is powerful and filled with pride.

“It’s just as tough as sports,” said senior drum major Adeline Hummel, 17. “You’re out there every day, having to nail your steps, keep the beat, some would say it’s even tougher than playing a sport.”

Carson City-Crystal Band Director Chad Parmenter said one of the main objectives of the band is to make sure the crowd is having a good time.

“At halftime, we try to be the crowd pleasers and entertainers,” Parmenter said. “For the football team, we’re there saying we support you, trying to help them get that next first down. Then we celebrate with the crowd when we get that touchdown. There’s been many games where I’ve felt it’s very important that we are there. We celebrate with the team with a win and mourn with them after a loss. If we’re not there doing the national anthem with the American Legion or doing the halftime show, I think the community suffers.”

As students prepare for another school year, they can do so knowing that opportunities such as marching band give them a chance to showcase themselves in a way that other organizations may not.

“One of the things that I like most about band is, it gives you a different perspective on a number of things,” Sorsen said. “It gives you a chance to express yourself where words cannot go. Everything evokes emotion.”

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