Marching band debuts new show, fresh look

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With the intensely bright lights of the football field shining down on them, the record 160 members of the Friday Night Band took the field during halftime for the first home performance of their 2019 show, “The Pale Blue Dot,” on Sep. 6. 

Band co-directors Claire Leeper and Daniel Upton had been planning this moment since February, when show design began. This year includes not only an updated performance, but also a new look, with uniforms designed by G2 Performance. 

“We are excited to debut our new look that brings a modern twist to the HHS band. Mrs. Leeper and I collaborated with the designers at G2 to get the amazing look. They scream ‘Blue Streaks’ and will really set us apart from other school for many years to come,” Upton said. 

In the time since February, band members put in varying amounts of time in rehearsals over the summer, with everyone beginning intensive rehearsals two weeks before the school year started. 

“Our competitive band joins all together for 10 hour days two weeks before school. One week before school our competitive band rehearses 6 hours per day and our Friday night band joins for the last 3 hours,” Upton said. “Once the school year begins we rehearse after school [and] until game time [on days with] home varsity [football] games.”

For those in band, Friday nights are “very hectic, [but] really fun,” involving a whirlwind of rehearsal, dinner and taking the field, according to senior Rachel Everard, clarinet section leader. 

Everard and seniors Claudia Obenschain, Ritt Culbreth, Leif McCoy and Nathan Ringle all have solo parts in the show. 

“There’s a main theme for the first part of the show, so I introduce it. I have to march off the field and play into a microphone, and then run back onto the field,” Everard said. “[Having a solo has] gotten easier. I was really nervous at the beginning of band camp, but now it’s no problem. Hopefully it won’t be any more stressful playing in front of [more] people.”

The show, according to Upton, is about the idea of the earth being a miniscule part of the universe as a whole. It includes music selections like David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Michael Markowski’s “Shadow Rituals,” Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter,” Mozart’s “Symphony #25,” and Eric Whitacre’s “Fly to Paradise.”

“[The show] is about earth and looking at earth from the perspective of outer space, [as well as] its relative[ly] small size and overall impact in the grand scheme of the universe,” Upton said. 

With 142 members making up the competitive Marching Blue Streak Band and an additional 18 in the Friday Night Band, co-directors Daniel Upton and Claire Leeper had to adjust their rehearsals based on larger numbers than in previous years.

“Making all of the logistics come together, to respecting student’s time, managing conflicting program schedules, communicating effectively and always presenting our program at the highest quality possible [is a challenge],” Upton said. 

However, the goal is the same: to get better every time they rehearse and to learn from performance experience. 

“It is not about competitions or placements, but about our individual and ensemble growth. We also constantly strive for the band to serve each other, realizing it is bigger than all of us, and to live by our motto ‘we before me’ and ‘band first.’ This is not the mentality that band comes before everything else, but that individuals put the good of the ensemble before themselves,” Upton said.

The Marching Blue Streak band found success last year at various competitions and assessments around the state, including a third place finish at Parade of Champions on Oct. 20, a first place finish at Blast in the Draft on Sep. 22 and a Superior ranking at the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association (VBODA) State Marching Band Assessment on Oct. 27. Upton gives credit to the students for achieving these honors. 

“Student dedication and effort is always key to success.  We have been an 8 time Virginia Honor Band, meaning we have received the highest rating at the state marching assessment each of those years,” Upton said. “We have won grand championships and first place trophies. Our color guard often receives first place and even the highest scores of all bands at our competitions.”

Everard’s goal is to finish her last year of marcing band with high scores and another Superior ranking. 

“I want our band to be the best that it’s been for all the years. I hope that we can get a Superior at assessment and I hope that we can get good scores at our competitions,” Everard said. 

For Upton, it’s about the growth of the marching band over the course of the season and realizing the potential that they have for success. 

We ultimately are trying to teach our students to be outstanding people who plan their lives and commitments, so they can fulfill those commitments to their fullest potential,” Upton said. “The vibe and work ethic of the band this year is exceptional.  We’re really excited about their potential and growth.”

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