Central High School marching band swept competition in 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Central High School marching band members spent Monday snacking on chips, sipping soda, watching a video of themselves and congratulating one another.
It was a deserved break after a historic season, directors said. For the first time, the band won first place at every competition it entered.
"Last year we had so much potential. This year we pulled it together. We wanted it so bad," said drum major Rachel Berry, a senior.
After up to four weeks of summer band camp and enough weekly practices to constitute a part-time job, the band is reaping the rewards of hard work. While talent played a big part, the unwavering dedication and drive of members was a key factor in the band's success, directors said.
First was Murphysboro Drums at Appletime, where the band won first in its division, "outstanding" visual, music, and percussion, and top solo performance. Then came the Farmington Invitational, where the band scored another win and "outstanding" music, visual and drum majors. At the Washington Festival, the band delivered another win and "outstanding" percussion. A week later, at the Bistate Invitational in Potosi, Mo., the band racked up more awards and a first-place win.
But the crowning victory came Saturday at the Greater St. Louis Marching Band Festival at the Edward Jones Dome. Last year the band placed second. But this year, the band walked away with first place, beating 11 other bands and completing an undefeated season.
"One of the things we consistently get comments on is how our marching band has a concert band sound. To play as good when you're moving as when you're sitting is very hard," said Bart Pittman, a section leader, soloist and snare drum player.
The 93-member band typically plays traditional, classical music. This year the nine-minute performance was set to Igor Stravinsky's "Petrouchka" and Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 5."
Before the St. Louis competition, the band altered its ending formation to add more appeal, said section leader and baritone player Josh Wen. "We march into a diamond and then explode outward," he said. "It's fast marching, which is hard to do, but I think we pulled it off."
The band received recognition throughout the day Monday. Berry said some students are joking "the band is the only thing this school has that wins."
More people are taking the band seriously, she said. When she was a freshman, the band was just beginning to require tryouts. At the time, members were occasionally called "geeks," but that has changed, she said.
"We had last year as an example of what was possible. Last year kind of caught us by surprise. ... The secret is finding students who are self-motivated," said director Neil Casey. Assistant directors are Josh LaMar and Billy Keys.
For seniors, the end to the competition season is bittersweet. Members hang out together, go out to eat and have grown into a family, Pittman said.
"In band you see people from all different types of cliques pulling together for the same goal. You can't get that anywhere else in the school," Berry said.
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