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JHS marching band prepares for season

By Staff | Jul 31, 2015

Soaring temperatures have done little to dampen the excitement of nearly 165 members of the Jefferson High School Cougar marching band as they traveled this week to Camp Frame in Hedgesville for annual camp.

The goal for the week, according to Band Director JP Lynch, is to learn the music and drill for the upcoming season’s half-time show. In addition, the band members learn stand tunes and the opening Natinal Anthem.

“It’s an intense week where the kids learn everything marching band,” Lynch said during a break in instruction Tuesday. “It can be a sloppy process,” Lynch said, likening the entire week to a chef preparing a meal.

“The kitchen is messy, but the finished product looks great,” he said.

Student Olivia Black echoed those sentiments when she shared that one her favorite parts about the weeklong camp is seeing seeing the difference between the first day and the last.

Bella Reichel agreed, saying, “While everybody is exhausted, sweaty and flustered, there are moments when the atmosphere is full of excitement and a felling of accomplishment for the great things we do throughout the week.”

Lynch indicated that this is his eighth year as the leader of the Jefferson Cougars but that band camp has been a regular event, probably for decades.

Junior Eleanor Kearney feels the week is a privilege that many other schools do not have.

“I like being able to dedicate a week to our marching band and getting to stay at camp,: she said. “Even though the heat is bad, I love being her playing music and being with friends.”

Throughout each day, the band breaks out into sectional practice so that players of each instrument type can learn their specific parts. The full band comes together at various times to learn the marching steps as they practice, along with the flag corps, on a makeshift football field.

While there is a lot of laughter, once those students raise their instruments, they are all business. Many are return students from last year when the band performed a rousing performance of Romeo and Juliet: Undead. Members of the group enjoyed dancing in that show as well as playing their instruments.

This year, the students will get that chance again. Teri Biebel, mother of a band member volunteered earlier in the week at camp. She shared what she witnessed on the field about how excited the band members are about this year.

“They are so excited to be dancing again, and the dance fits perfectly with the music and theme of the show,” she said.

This year’s music is based on the Broadway musical ‘Wicked’ and has been specially written for the Cougars.

Lynch explained that Gary Gilroy, of Fresno State, is one of the best arrangers for high school band shows in the country.

“We’ve been doing his music for the past five years,” Lynch said. This year, Lynch went one step further and contacted Gilroy asking if he would do a special arrangement just for Jefferson. Gilroy agreed. Actually, liked the arrangement so much, his own band will perform the same show at Fresno State.

In addition to the home football season, Lynch said that the Cougars will march in all local parades, beginning with the African American Festival parade on Aug. 16.

The students will also perform as an exhibition band this year rather than a competitive band.

“Most large bands don’t compete because there are very few large bands that give true competitiveness,” Lynch explained. The students voted this year, he said, to be an exhibition band and play at several events. Lynch said they will play at the Washington High School competition, Musselman and Martinsburg.

“These events are fundraisers for those schools,” he said.

The band has also been selected to participate in the annual Cherry Blossom Festival parade in Washington D.C. In the spring.

“I want to get them in front of as many people as possible,” Lynch said with regard to his application to take part in the D.C. event.

“There will be hundreds of thousands of people live and millions to see them on television,” he said.

This is the second time in four years that Jefferson has been invited to perform. Very few high school bands are selected for the parade.

Lynch encourages individuals to come out and see the band perform as a way of showing support.

In addition support can also be shown in tangible ways with donations, he said. He explained that the cost of developing such a large band is very high.

“It has taken us 43 years of school history to build up so that this group of students have enough instruments,” he said.

While many students provide their own instruments, the larger ones are owned by the school including drums, sousaphones and pit equipment, Lynch said.

“Some of that equipment is equivalent to the price of a used car,” he said. “We are always looking for ways to upgrade our instruments,” he continued.

The cost of the equipment and the struggles to purchase and maintain are concerns far from the minds of the young players spending hours each day at Camp Frame. They are having fun and learning what they are dubbing a “great show.”

And on top of that, according to Jordan Dixon-Gross, “you get to hang out with sincerely cool people for a whole week!”

Jefferson’s first performance of ‘Wicked’ is scheduled for the Aug. 28 home football game against Millbrook.