Silver Chips Online

The band plays on

The Montgomery Blair Marching Band overcomes the challenge of downsizing

By Martha Morganstein, Online News Editor
October 5, 2013
Small band makes a great sound
As the first half of the season opener football game winds down, a group of Blair's enthusiastic musicians gather on the far corner of the field, ready to make their season debut. When the announcer invites the crowd to sit back and enjoy the Montgomery Blair Marching Band, they begin playing the Jackson 5's old school Motown song, "I Want you Back." The band begins marching in formation and the color guard starts spinning flags. The performance continues with popular pieces such as "I'll Be There" and "Forget You." They conclude the halftime show with the "Blair Fight Song," and as they walk off the field, everyone cheers and congratulates the band. Although there are way fewer members then in previous years, they still make a great sound. The marching band graduated 14 members last year, significantly cutting back on the size of the team. Despite this setback, the band retains its mantra, "the band plays on."

Marching band members give their all during practice. Connor Smith
Marching band members give their all during practice.
The marching band is dealing with some challenges because they have so few members. Three years ago, the marching band had over 30 students, but now it is down to only 22, including five in the color guard and four in the drum line. "It's been a rebuilding year because of all the seniors who graduated last year and that just happens every once in a while," Marching Band Director, Adam Stephens, explains. Because of the size reduction, the marching band is more limited in its song choice. "Some of the songs that we've wanted to play we couldn't because it needs fuller instrumentation and we didn't have the proper instruments," Senior Drum Major, Ivan Reimers, says. On top of that, the fact that there are only 22 members in the band, show the importance of everyone attending every practice, game, and competition. "For example, if three people can't come, we almost immediately have to rule out an activity because we know there won't be enough people," piccolo player Samantha Chyatte, says.

Despite being such a small group, the students say that they are fortunate for being equal in numbers for each section. "We got lucky, because for having only 17 people, we're extremely balanced. We've got two trumpets, two clarinets, a flute, a piccolo, an alto saxophone, a tenor saxophone, a tuba, a trombone, and two mellophones and we have a good sized drum line too," Chyatte explains.

There are different theories as to why they have so few members in a school of over 2900 students. "Because the football team was losing, I think people kind of lost interest in the football scene, which is the marching band biggest scene. Now that we've won the first game, people have become more interested in marching band," Reimers explains.

Practice
Marching band members give their all during practice. Connor Smith
Marching band members give their all during practice.
During the school year, the marching band practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. However, they've been marching together in the hot sun since mid- August. Band practice is a very fun environment where everyone is welcome to give their input. "They are a very enthusiastic and energetic group, which is what a marching band group needs to be because they need to pump up the crowd," Stephens explains. During practice, students will call out questions and concerns. Stephens or Reimers will then rerun the piece as a group or work with the students individually. During the up-beat songs such as "Call Me Maybe" or "Forget You," multiple students dance in their seats as they play. "We work hard, but have a good time doing it," junior drum major Eli Parry-Giles says. Every member tries their best at practice, just as they would during a game or competition. "They are extremely hard working and you can tell that the people who are there all want to be there," Stephens says.

Performances
Every home game, the Marching Band is alongside the Poms team and cheerleaders, supporting Blair's football team. The drum majors conduct the pieces as Stephens watches from the sidelines. Their job is to pump up the audience during the game and provide entertainment during halftime. Their main performance is during halftime, when they perform three songs including their theme, Motown. During timeouts, the band 'plays shorter songs from the stands, such as the Blair fight song and "Call me Maybe." "Our main goal is just to give some folks just some enjoyable entertainment when football is not going on and our personal goal is to play the best that we can," Stephens explains.

The Marching Band Community
Stephens is trying to get the marching band involved in new activities this year. For example, on Sept.7, the band performed at a University of Maryland's football game with UMD's marching band and other local high schools' bands. Stephens is also trying to get the marching band to perform at other Blair sporting events, such as basketball games.

One of the reasons that marching band is different than other music groups at Blair is because of the song choice. "We play a lot of more popular tunes like some things you might hear on the radio. I think the nature of the music makes it more fun," Stephens says.
The Blair marching band is a close-knit group and provides a great chance to make new friends. "It's a group of people that you interact with every other day. We have lunch together and before the football games, we just stay afterschool and hang out, so it becomes just like your second family," Reimers says. They welcome all students in the marching band, even those who have not played an instrument before. "It's a non-threatening way to pick up a new instrument. Or, if you've never done color guard, you can do that. It just gives you chance to try something new," Stephens explains.

Additionally, the marching band has a lot more freedom in what and how they play. For example, the students took a vote and decided that they wanted to play "Call Me Maybe," by Carly Rae Jepsen, which Stephens arranged for them. Whether you don't have room in your schedule for a music class or just love music, the marching band is a pleasurable extracurricular activity. "I love marching band because I can play as loud as I like, unlike other school music groups where you have more limits on the volume," trumpet player, Noah Buchholz, says.
There is a lot of hope that marching band will soon return to its normal size. When the band started practicing in the summer, it only had 14 members with instruments with no drum line, but it has since gained four new players. "I'm really optimistic that we will continue to get new people, so I have complete faith that soon the marching band will be back to its normal size, if not bigger," Stephens says. Even when they are faced with challenges, the marching band always seems to be having a good time while sounding great.


http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12193