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Marching band season, which began in the summer, is heading into the high-stakes tournament phase of its 17-week calendar.
Now it’s payoff time, when hundreds of local musicians have a chance to reap the rewards and accolades for that considerable commitment.
Today, the 88-member Olympian Spirit Marching Band heads to Plainfield, where it will participate in the Indiana State School Music Association Scholastic Class Marching Band contest.
Across town, the 160-member Sound of North Marching Band is thinking about tonight’s ISSMA Center Grove Cavalcade of Champions.
Both bands are serious about doing their best — so much so that members gave up Thursday and Friday of fall break this week to participate in marching band minicamps.
Drum major Erica Sun picked up on the electronic metronome’s tick-tock beat during East’s minicamp Thursday and began swinging her arms to its tempo.
Marchers in front of her, equally dedicated to the cause at hand, were spread out on the high school football field. They stood with their horns raised, drumsticks ready and a singular purpose to master a marching routine that they began practicing around the time the school year began.
But assistant band directors on the sidelines and in the press box, where main director David Rodgers had a bird’s-eye view, had plenty of advice to smooth rough edges.
The clarinets needed to get in tune, for example. The saxophones needed to play louder. Everyone needed to think about their marching and how it relates to other marchers.
What’s at stake tonight for The Olympian Spirit is a chance to earn a gold rating and a berth in the Oct. 26 Scholastic Marching Band Finals.
Band director David Rodgers said this year’s unit is more talented than his bands of previous years. It placed fifth out of nine bands at the Greenwood Community High School Marching Band Invitational on Sept. 28.
Rodgers said he is confident his musicians will at least get a bronze or silver rating — if not a gold — today.
East will perform its new show, “Winter White,” at today’s preliminary competition, Rodgers said. He said the show, which can be a maximum of seven minutes, will feature the music of the Trans Siberian Orchestra, Foreigner, Annie Lennox and 18th century Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, among others.
It will utilize winter-themed props such as trees painted to look like they are covered with snow, Rodgers said. Appropriately, members will wear white uniforms.
Rodgers’ assistants helped put the show together. They included assistant director Tim Brookshire, who worked with wind instruments and percussion, and Yoko Usui, who worked with pit percussion and marimbas.
Regardless of how the band does today, the Olympian Spirit will wrap up its year at the Nov. 2 Mid-States Finals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Rodgers said the band has participated in that event in each of the past six years. Last year, it finished fourth out of 13 bands.
The Mid-States Band competition is intended for bands that are too small to successfully go head-to-head with some of the state’s larger bands. The organization bases its divisional categories on the number of students in the bands, not on the number of students in the schools they represent.
Baritone saxophone player Evan Watkins, a junior, counted “5-6-7-8” to a drumbeat, then marched with his instrument held high and in lockstep with other sax players toward the football field sidelines.
He and other North band members participating in Thursday’s minicamp placed their musical instruments in front of them and lowered their heads — part of the show — as other sections of the band marched in patterns behind them as part of the show’s finale.
On the sidelines lay dozens of water jugs, which band members attacked with parched throats at every break.
The North marching band will use tonight’s contest at Center Grove as preparation for the ISSMA regional contest next Saturday. If it places in the top 10 at the regional, it advances to the ISSMA Semi-State competition Oct. 26. After that, it’s the ISSMA State Marching Contest on Nov. 2.
North director Bill Stultz said his band will march in the Ethnic Expo parade at 11 a.m. today before heading to Center Grove. He said tonight’s competition will give his band an opportunity to see where it stands in relation to other marching bands and get technical feedback from judges.
Last year, the Sound of North finished eighth in Class A competition — for high schools with at least 1,800 students — in the state contest at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The band will try to duplicate or improve on that feat with this year’s show, “JFK.” It won first-place honors with that show in invitationals Sept. 14 at Martinsville, Sept. 21 at Hamilton Southeastern and Sept. 28 at Floyd Central.
The show musically tells the story of John F. Kennedy from the time he campaigned for president in 1960 until after his death in 1963, Stultz said. Musical selections and marching are paced to the
mood of the scenes, ranging from his election to the Cuban Missile Crisis and his assassination.
Stultz said his team includes Keith Burton, who wrote some of the music; B.J. Marks, who coached the percussion section; and Charles Williams, who prepared the color guard.
The show will be no more than 9 minutes, 30 seconds.
“Our goal as a marching band is to make it to the state finals,” Stultz said. “We don’t have a placement goal for the state; we just want our band to reach their potential.”
North has advanced in the state competition nine times in the past 18 years. If it falls short this year, it will compete Nov. 2 in the Mid-States Championships, which will also be at Lucas Oil Stadium.
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