Pinball Wizard

Marching band gears up to rock audiences with The Who’s Tommy

The room grows louder as students with instruments in hand make their way through Room 39. It’s 6:50 a.m. and their first class of the day has already begun.

Photo by Caitlyn Hopkins
Photo by Caitlyn Hopkins

As marching band director Ann Snead seats herself at the front of the room, the noise begins to die out — all eyes toward her. “How was everyone’s weekend?” she asks, but no one fully answers; there are only grunts and yawns.  Snead acknowledges the fact that it’s early and changes her introduction to procedures and upcoming events.  When all is discussed, she sits up and addresses the class.  “All right, well, let’s head outside,” she says.  Almost immediately, instruments sound, chatter continues, and the band files out the side doors into the cold morning.

“The best thing about first hour is feeling like you’re doing something together with this massive group of people you love,” sophomore flutist Isabel Zacharias said.

On the field, leaders group their sections and begin their warm-ups by stretching and playing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”  After 10 minutes, band members make their way into position, the drum majors take their stances and the drill team centers itself on the field.

“Spencer, can you give us a pitch?” Britt Haney’s voice bellows from a megaphone.

A trumpet sounds and all instruments find the exact note.

“All right, let’s just run through the whole thing.”

It’s then that the drum majors yell, “Detail, Atten-hut,” and the band responds in a roar, “One.”

“The hardest part of preparing is just taking the time to get up in the morning and make it look perfect,” Zacharias said.  “You run the same drill over and over, and it’s work — more work than people realize. It’s all totally worth it though.”

Many of the techniques used in marching band require discipline and execution, especially when trying to connect  with the audience, but developing those skills between the beginning of the school year and the first home game is nearly impossible.

“We have a rehearsal the last day of school ,” Snead said. “We read through the music, and then they have it for the summer to practice.”

This year’s marching band theme is Tommy, a rock’n roll opera written by The Who in 1969 about a unhappy boy who can not hear, see or speak.

The theme is decided at the end of the previous school year in order to create a feel for what lies ahead in the upcoming season.

“If the music looks like it would be a good fit for the band this year, I would … do something that would be a little bit more fun,” Snead said.

In addition to morning rehearsels, band camp is  the other  huge  factor in the marching band’s preparations. Band camp begins at the end of July and continues through the first week of August.

“By the time school starts for marching band, a huge chunk of the work is done,” Snead said.

On Sept. 4th, the marching band played its first half-time show. They walked out on to the field and assembled into position as the crowd waited. Standing in sections, with the drum line in the front, the drill team followed onto the field to join the band. The band started to play “It’s A Boy” and simultaneously, 100 orange balloons were released from the stands as the crowd cheered. The release of the balloons at each performance is just one way that the band boostser club supports the musicians, and it allows parents to be involved in something their sutdents love.

“We always walk out on to the field or the stage and totally rock it out,” Zacharias said.  “And you know what? We do get that cliche “proud feeling” when everyone cheers us on. That’s how we know we’ve succeeded.