As a new school year begins, seasons change to cool, crisp days and nights, and focus turns to Fall sports and activities at STC. For the members of the Trojan Marching Band, this means many hours preparing their halftime show both within the group and individually.
The band performs at halftime of the STC home football games, providing some of the "color and pageantry" that goes hand in hand at high schools across the nation on Friday nights and at colleges on Saturdays. Some may view halftime as a point in the event to get up, stretch, and visit the concession stand. But for others, it's a time to recognize the preparations and precision that goes along with a marching band performance.
"If you've never participated in a marching band before or never had the opportunity to be around one, I think it can be thought of as easy.", said Mike Carnahan, STC Band Director. "It is most definitely not easy, and, in fact, it is a very athletic activity, and one that we take pretty seriously."
The Trojans on the march.
The band begins their season in May each year when the music for the show is passed out to students going into grades 9-12. They are then expected to begin learning and memorizing their music. In late July and early August, rehearsals begin to gear up for color guard and the drumline. There are a few nights where the beginners come out to learn the basics of marching and what is going to be expected of them, then there is the full week of marching band rehearsals, usually during the hottest part of the day a couple weeks before the first day of school.
"Water and sun screen are essential during our week of rehearsal before school starts. We make sure each student is well hydrated and safe, and will move rehearsal indoors or take breaks if it gets too warm.", said Carnahan. "We also are sure to mix in a lot of "fun" into our rehearsals to keep members motivated. Games that are fun to play but at the same time are real team builders for us. Teamwork and becoming a family are priorities of ours."
Once the school year starts, band members (and directors) need to reset their internal clocks as they meet every Monday through Thursday at 6:45 a.m. to rehearse before the school day. In addition, they rehearse from 8:15-8:55 daily as part of the regular school schedule. "Those extra hours of rehearsal time are needed for us to remain competitive with other bands, with ourselves, and with what we expect out of each other.", Carnahan explained.
This season, the band is performing the Music of James Bond for their show. So far, it seems to be a hit with the members of the band and their fans. Sophomore snare drummer Belle Tyynismaa had this to say about the choice of music: "I feel like the music in the show is fun, so it adds more enthusiasm to what we're doing."
"I have been getting a lot of real nice compliments on the show so far this year.", said Carnahan, "People like when the band plays music they can relate to or recognize. I know our members sure enjoy hearing compliments after a performance and the support during the performance while they are playing. The crowd may not realize it, but speaking as a former marching band member myself, when we hear crowd noise cheering us on while we are performing, it helps us to reach down and perform even better. I would like to encourage more of that from our fans, don't be afraid to make some noise."
The Trojan Marching Band recently took the field competitively for the first time this season at the Pella Marching Dutch Invitational held at Pella High School. 17 other bands from across Iowa also were on display that night, from Class 1A schools to Class 4A schools. Each band has put in many hours of hard work and dedication to perform their best for a bleacher full of faithful marching band fans. "It's unique, different.", said Carnahan, "You are at a football stadium, but not there to watch a football game. You're there to watch all these great bands put on a show, each one different, but each being judged by the same set of criteria." Bands are judged on how well they play their music and how well they march, both from the field and from the press box. Two judges dodge their way through the bands on the field to get an up close look and listen, while two others make their comments from the press box. Additionally, there are judges specifically for the drumline and for the color guard. At the end of the performance, all scores are tallied from each judge and places are awarded to the bands based on their scores.
"If you've never been to a marching band contest, I urge you to attend one.", said Carnahan, "I guarantee you will be shocked at what you see and you will enjoy every moment you are there. Every year when there are new members to the marching band, we get parents who have not been to a contest say how amazing it really is. I hope we can get more STC fans, not just our parents, coming out to contests to support not only their Trojan Marching Band, but all the bands. Of course, we hope you cheer a little louder for us.", smiled Carnahan.
The band ended up in 6th place out of a total of 8 bands in Class 3A competition at Pella. "With our band, it's not about placing, but about putting on our absolute best performance. It's also nice to have a competitive fire and have something to shoot for, but we don't make it our priority to beat other bands.", Carnahan said, "Our main focus is to put on a fun show for ourselves and for our audiences, but doing it the best we can each time."
The band next performs at the Iowa High School Music Association State Marching Band Festival on Saturday, Oct.12. The event is held at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids and STC performs at 10:30 a.m. Carnahan talked about the importance of this contest, "It's really what we work for. At State, bands are awarded a rating, either a Division One, Two, Three, or Four. There are no placings at this event, so many bands can earn the same rating. Our goal is the Division One Rating, as that is obviously the best we can do and says that our program is among the best in the entire State."
This year, the band will be trying for it's tenth Division One Rating over the past eleven years. "It's never an easy task to perform at the Division One level, so we don't take it for granted that we will be handed one. We know it's something we have to continually work hard for.", said Carnahan. "Hopefully we get a lot of our fans there to support us and give us that extra little push of encouragement."
"I feel like I have a stronger role in the band this year being one of the snare drummers, which puts a little more pressure on me individually to do well," said Tyynismaa, "But if we get the One, it will feel like all our hard work has paid off and that we made past bands at STC proud of the continued tradition of excellence."
The band's final competition for this season will be at the Waukee Marching Invitational on Saturday, October 19, at Waukee High School. They will be among nearly 20 other bands again, a few of them considered to be some of the best high school bands around the Midwest. "This is a great way to cap off another season. They do a nice job of recognizing seniors from each band at the Awards Ceremony and always include some fireworks for a memorable event.", said Carnahan, "These memories will be what people talk about at their class reunions in their future, and marching band is just one of the many great activities students can take part in to help shape their lives and identities of who they really are. I'm really proud of each one, current student and former student."