Jefferson High band students prepare for season
HEDGESVILLE – As is annual tradition, members of the Jefferson High School Marching Band have taken up residence this week at Camp Frame in Hedgesville. The group, 194 strong, is spending the week learning and perfecting the steps to “Egyptian Empire,” the show for this marching season.
According to band director JP Lynch, the show, written by Steven Schwartz, was arranged by Gary Gilroy and is a show that is not for sale to high school bands. Therefore, Lynch explained, not many bands have done the show and it is more difficult than one normally selected for high school performers.
Lynch explained that Gary Gilroy, of Fresno State, is one of the best arrangers for high school band shows in the country.
Lynch, who developed a personal relationship with Gilroy a few years ago when Gilroy arranged “Wicked” specifically for Jefferson High, said he was having trouble selecting a show this year and decided to call to see if Gilroy had anything available.
The Eqyptian Empire show was done by Fresno State and now Jefferson will do that exact arrangement.
“I know I say it every year,” Lynch laughed, “but this is the hardest show by far we have ever attempted.”
Even with the difficulty level, Lynch said his students are “picking it up like nobody’s business.”
The students arrived at Camp Frame on Sunday evening for a full week of intense practice.
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.
Lynch indicated that the number of freshmen are down this year, perhaps due to the new redistricting policy instituted by the Board of Education.
The students have enjoyed some cool weather this year and, according to Lynch, that has helped productivity. The music and the drill, Lynch said, have been clicking and the group has done an excellent job learning the moves.
“It’s a lot better than last year, especially with the weather,” said junior Adelle Sarra, of Shepherdstown.
She went on to say that since many in the group have been working together for several years, things are coming together much quicker.
“I feel like we have gotten closer and we are working together well,” Sarra said.
Matthew Muhle agreed and said that even though it is sometimes difficult to learn, “it’s all worth it when you do all the sets perfectly from start to finish.”
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. 19.
In the past, Lynch has encouraged 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. The cost of developing such a large band is very high. While many students provide their own instruments, the larger ones are owned by the school including drums, sousaphones and pit equipment.
“Some of that equipment is equivalent to the price of a used car. 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.”