Pulling together

Marching band learns the keys to success

by Eric A Thomas

For the last few years, everything has not completely been business as usual. Many adjustments were made to help things run as normally as possible in the collective lives of people due to the restrictions of COVID-19. The Jacksonville High School Marching Crimsons were no exception.

The Marching Crimsons worked hard to return to a season of normalcy. “In 2020, COVID canceled that year’s band camp, and the pandemic canceled the competition season,” remarks Samantha Young, color guard instructor at JHS (Jacksonville High School).

She continues, “At the end of that school year, the current band director retired. Starting the 2021 school year, we welcomed a first-year teacher, so we had a learning curve getting used to each other.” Still, everything seemed to be heading in the right direction.

The yearly planning for marching band starts right after Christmas break. Show concepts and music are discussed, and a calendar of performances and competitions is produced. In the spring of that next calendar year, auditions for color guard and drum majors occur, along with basic rehearsals for those groups.

In the middle of July 2021, Jacksonville Association for Music graciously sponsored the drum majors and color guard captain to go to the Smith Walbridge Clinics at Eastern Illinois University to work on basic skills and techniques. With all these actions, preparations for the 2022 marching season were well underway.

Still, there were a couple of obstacles to overcome. “The drill for the show is normally ordered after the show has been decided,” notes Young. However, the music was ordered in late summer and the drill was ordered one week prior to camp. It was also learned that the band director had accepted a position in his hometown and his last day would be four days into camp. Even with those snags, the group was determined for a successful season; this was key, and all hands were on deck to help achieve their success.

Young hit the ground running, recalling the training that a previous band director had given her on the inside workings of marching band and putting a show together. “It was never a question of if we were going to have a season or not. It became how are we going to make this season work,” Young stated with conviction.

The Marching Crimsons consist of more than just the 49 students who perform the show on the field. The support and involvement from several parents; substitute teacher Erica Stewart; and JHS German teacher Lynette Guthrie, a former drum major for the Marching Crimsons, is far-reaching.

In the end, the formations and/or drill was put together by a drill writer, Young took care of the color guard, and Guthrie guided the drum majors and assisted Young with various body visuals and dance moves. The winter guard coach also helped by arranging bus forms. Then, parents filled in where extra help was needed.

Despite the rocky start, the Crimsons performed at four home football games and appeared in two parades and four field competitions, all quite successfully. Under the direction of their two drum majors, JHS senior Anne Karr and junior Ian Meek, the Marching Crimsons brought home two second-place finishes, one third place and one fifth-place finish. Karr and Meek brought home two first place and one second. The color guard received two first and two seconds and the percussion received a first and a second. The theme for this year’s show was “Secret Agents.”

“This year, this band has achieved more by learning to work together and encourage each other,” concluded Young. “The challenges they have had to work through have made them stronger.”

The 2023 JHS band season is approaching, and the Marching Crimsons have welcomed their new band director, Abbie Eveland. Together, they are looking forward to another successful season.

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