The Band: Where Are They Now?
Chris "Does Anyone Ever Notice my Ridiculous Nicknames" Snider
February 24, 2010
Filed under Student Life
During football season (or in this case, marching season) everyone knows about the band, color guard, and drumline. A little more than ten percent of the student body is involved with the Jacket Regiment, thus it’s hard not to hear about what they do.
However, after the State Competition, it seems that very few people ever hear anything about them, or they hear vague references to their accomplishments. Basically, the guard separates themselves to train for Winter Guard, the Band stays inside to work on more advanced music for various concerts, and the drumline goes to competitions for Winter Drumline.
The best way to start is by clarifying the name “The Band:” this means all of the sections of the Jacket Regiment, including the drumline, are involved, with the exception of the guard. The band spends the rest of the year indoors to work on its musical prowess. During marching season, the band only learns a limited selection of music because it spends most of the time perfecting the show music. This only raises their skill level so far, thus they spend a considerable amount of time inside to work on “more intelligent music,” as Band Director Mr. Deen calls it, “meaning higher level and more difficult music.”
In recent years, Mr. Deen has made the decision to get the band to perform more often by presenting a monthly concert to parents, although technically any one can come to the performances. This not only gives the students a chance to showcase their musical talent, but it also doubles as a confidence booster for when the band has professional performances. However, having so many performances can get rather tedious and not every student is enthralled by the idea. Junior and trumpet-player Rachel Ellefson says that she is “not really a fan of playing every month…maybe every other month would be better.”
These performances may not be as entertaining to teenagers as a marching show or stands tunes (band speak for popular music that is played in football stands), but it is necessary. Rather than play fast and upbeat tunes, the band has learned such pieces as Suite from the Nutcracker by P.I. Tchaikovshy, Prelude and Fugue by J.S. Bach, Overture in B Flat by Caesar Giovannini, and Second Suite for Military Band in F Major by Gustav Holst. Playing higher-level music such as this will in turn raise the level of the band.
That being said, the band does play the occasional “fun” piece, like Music for a Darkened Theatre by Danny Elfman, who arranged music for many popular movies, including Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Senior saxophone-player Zach McCaslin says “I think it’s important that we expand our abilities on our instruments to our full capability and the ‘intelligent music’ is going to help us become better musicians.”
The band does little competing after marching season as a whole. Individuals audition for County, Region, and All-State recognition in early winter, immediately following marching season. In the spring, the band competes in Festival Band, where they perform three pieces from a pre-approved list followed by a sight-reading session, all in front of a panel of judges. They are then given a rating, and at the last Festival competition, North Augusta was one of only three high schools to earn a Superior rating. (Then why were we eighth place for the past three marching seasons? Good question.)
The Drumline plays with the rest of the band during this time, but since most classical music only has limited percussion parts, they often get left out and their skills with their marching instruments become stagnant. Thus, Mr. Ryan Johnson (or RJ), Mr. Deen’s percussion instructor and assistant, has the drumline and pit percussion (meaning the marimbas and their ilk) compete in Winter Guard International (WGI) indoor drumline competitions. This means that they travel with the guard and perform a show approximately five minutes in length that is rather similar to a marching show but only features the drumline and is performed on a gym floor.
(Note: The organization is called “Winter Guard International,” but this only means that the guard and drumline travel to the same school. The two groups do not compete together; they are judged separately.)
“The year RJ came (last year was his first year) was the first year we competed, and
that was the year we won 1st place in the state novice-level competition. This year we’re competing at the intermediate level,” says senior Devin Broaden.
In order to prepare for WGI, the drumline has been having after school practices every Tuesday and Thursday with the occasional Friday mini camp. Like marching season practices, the drumline still uses snares, basses, etc. and must practice marching while playing. However, unlike marching season, these practices are very laid back. Also, since they perform on a mat rather than a field, they must use a different marching technique.
Devin also mentioned that at practices “we will repeat the same section in our music or drill over and over until RJ thinks that it’s good enough, no matter how long it takes.”
This year, the drumline has only competed in one competition, where they took first place in their ranking, but the February 13 performance had to be canceled due to the snow. However, they still are expected to do well this year in their upcoming competitions.
Unlike the drumline, the color guard has little to do with the rest of the Regiment after marching season. Instead, they practice rigorously to prepare for their WGI competitions. The guard has competed in WGI in previous years, “however, Mr. Piner has definitely brought a new edge to the guard program at the high school. Everything is focused on the guard now; he pushes us harder, so therefore the [students] in guard now are hard-workers that want the guard to succeed. That’s a big difference from the way things were. We’re definitely better, and a lot of it is credited to Mr. Piner,” says Captain Taylor Wapshott.
A guard show is only loosely similar to the guard’s contribution to a marching show. At WGI, the guard not only performs flag and weapon routines to prerecorded music,
but they also incorporate very difficult dance and ballet maneuvers as well. Taylor Wapshott commented that “winter guard choreography is more ballet and movement oriented since the judges are so close, and the choreography is much more difficult. Winter guard is definitely fun because you get in touch with the more emotional and intense side of guard.”
Unlike the drumline, the guard must practice every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, which the occasional 10-2 practice on Saturday so that they can continue to compete in the top-level of WGI. All this work makes NA’s color guard one of the hardest working and most talented units in the state.
While no one is expecting any of the student body to attend any of these performances, Mr. Deen is planning to have a performance towards the end of WGI season where the band will perform in the gym so that afterwords the drumline and the guard can perform their respective shows. Everyone is invited to come to this performance, so listen for news about it in the near future.