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Note-able: Bands stay busy as football season ends

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They play all 48 minutes at every game, home or away. They can roast during Week One and freeze during playoffs.

They are expected to play just as fervently if their team is up- or down- 45-0.

“They” are marching bands, who are forever intertwined with the gridiron. Any football fan who ever belted out “Strike your gait and win,” “’T’s for Temple U” or even “Watch our Eagles fly,” appreciates their efforts.

Many schools are already planning their 2021 field shows. Students have practiced for a minimum of 80 hours in August band camps to prepare for the show’s debut on football opening night. Some subsections- rookies, drum line and color guard- have invested even more time.

Marching bands follow a similar process – heavy August rehearsals, late night weekday practices, games and competitions – but each band has its own unique style.

“We try to do some lighter stuff that isn’t quite so serious,” explained Neil Dilson, the CB West marching band director. “That is no way a dig at other programs. The financial component of some productions can get out of control really fast.

“We want to play, march and do something equally enjoyable to a football crowd as it is to a competitive crowd,” Dilson continued. “While we try to be as competitive as we can – and competitions are important performances – we are focused on something that can be enjoyed by whoever is watching.”

Bands, like teams, fit their scheme to their personnel. Both Dilson and CB South Marching Titans director Brian Cox affirmed that the makeup of their band effects their show design.

“We have a really strong brass section this year and our current show features the brass throughout,” Cox shared. “Two euphonium players who are outstanding are featured in the second movement of our show this year.”

A marching band’s primary exposure will always be through football games. “I have a lot of respect for Coach (Tom Hetrick) and he has a lot of respect for us,” Cox offered. “I have a lot of football players in the concert band so they have a lot of respect for what the marching band does. There is definitely a good relationship.

“For our Homecoming game as the team went out to start warm-ups, we set up a tunnel outside of their entrance and played the fight song as they exited the building,” Cox continued. “The football coaches all said, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’”

“The football team has a legacy and those games have been consistently fun to go to with the great energy our crowd has,” Dilson said. “We’ve been lucky that people support us and watch the show.

“We made a conscious effort to think about the public persona of the band at football games. That’s why we have kids on the track playing to the student section and doing stuff with the cheerleaders. All of the music that we play in the stands is brand new and really short. It allows us to play in between plays or if there is a turnover,” Dilson concluded, “we have snippets.”

Yet football is only part of the band’s schedule. CB South’s band had seven additional competitions this fall. CB West competed five times. Both bands will also perform in holiday parades and both will travel later in the year.

Friday games and Saturday competitions mean double duty on most weekends. But the crucible of hard work produces the same type of camaraderie than an athletic team does … and for the same reasons.

“The sheer amount of hours that you are putting in together with the other members of the ensemble allows you to become pretty close. I get anxious with long bus rides,” Cox admitted, “but the kids love it. They’re hanging out with their friends, watching YouTube videos and sharing their experiences and what they like. Other than down time in rehearsal, they’re constantly going.”

“I’m 20 years out of high school now and I still keep in touch with band people,” Dilson echoed. “(Band) is a place where parents can feel comfortable sending their kids and not worry about some of the stuff that you hear about with other activities where kids may not be making the best decisions.”

“One thing marching band has is that there are no second or third string players,” Cox pointed out. “For us, all 91 kids have to have their ‘A’ game for our performance to work out really well. You have the freshman boy who doesn’t know his left foot from his right foot working with the seniors who have been doing this for four years together on the same field at the same time. It’s really cool seeing the senior class step up for that freshman class every year.”

“There is no division of importance once you put on a uniform. They are on the field as equals and that translates not just musically, but socially too,” Dilson added.

Both directors cited the advantage that their middle school ninth-graders have in transitioning to high school, because of their familiarity with the buildings and their band family.“

I think that is a reason why this is an important activity,” Dilson concluded, “and that support system is invaluable.”

Author’s note: Don Leypoldt spent three years in the Council Rock Marching Band. He hopes he is a better writer than he was a trumpet player.


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