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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Owens, NMCC band have fun together

Monday, September 13, 2004

(Photo)
New Madrid County Central band director Butch Owens.
NEW MADRID - It was their home opener Friday night. After weeks of sweat and drills, they donned their uniforms and took the field.

And it was music to the crowd's ears.

But as New Madrid County Central High School Marching Band performed, director Butch Owens watched, listened and made mental notes on details the 70 some members of the band, flag corps and twirlers would work on Monday.

"I don't expect every note to be right or everyone to march in step," said Owens as he prepared for the show. "I want that but what I want most is for them to have fun. I am."

In his sixth year with the R-1 School District, Owens is marking his third year as the high school band director. The son of Edward Jr. and Shirley Owens of Charleston, it was while in his high school band that he realized this was the career he wanted. He went on to graduate from Southeast Missouri State University with a bachelor of music education degree with an instrumental emphasis and take his first job in the Kelly School District before coming to New Madrid County R-1.

Just like their counterparts who earn the gridiron glory on Friday night, Owens points out his students work hard. Beginning two weeks before school starts, members of the flag corps, the percussion section and his two drum majors, Madison Colbert and Hannah Smith, were practicing each morning.

The second week they were joined by the other band members, working for three hours on music and marching fundamentals in preparation for their season.

"It is hard work," noted Colbert. "For some it comes easily, for some it doesn't. You do have to work at it." And, she continued, they are learning about music as they work on their marching.

This year's football half-times are based on the theme "Sounds of the Radio." Owens said it will include songs ranging from groups such as Outkast to Styx.

"We are more of an entertainment at the football game. I try to do stuff the students are going to like and that will be entertaining to our various audiences," he said. "I know I won't make everyone happy, but it is majority rules and what music they are capable of playing."

Owens requires his students to memorize their marching music, something he said they were initially unhappy about. "But they march better, look better without the music staring at them in the face," he said. "They fought me about that the first year, oh did they fight me but when we started marching they realized they could play it by memory."

For a marching band, it isn't the music that is the biggest obstacle, Owens said, but the moving. Whether a 6-foot-plus horn player or a diminutive drummer, each is suppose to take the exact same size step - 22 1/2 inches.

"You want the same size step so every thing looks uniform," said Owens.

During the summer camp, Owens breaks down the process for the players. They go out to the field and practice taking eight steps for every five yards. And they practice it over and over and over.

For parades, they are expected to use the same uniform steps as they march down the streets. For the most part, he said, they do.

"We've never had any train wrecks. Well, we have had a couple of kids bump into each other. When a truck or a float comes to a stop, the twirlers and the drum majors begin to mark time but there isn't a signal to stop moving so the band just has to be watching - that's another good thing about having their music memorized, they can be watching," he said

Owens encourages his band not only to have fun on the field with their shows but also in the stands. The band members sit together at the games where they join the cheerleaders in yells and even offer a few of their own cheers. ("Give me a B - b, Give me an A - a, Give me an N - n, Give me a D - d. What's that spell?")

"Once they start screaming and hollering, they forget they are in the band. They have a great time," said Owens.

They entertain from the stands, too. During a lull in the game, the band plays and the cheerleaders dance to the music.

But the young musicians and their director know they aren't the reason most people come out to those Friday night games. Said drum major Colbert: "A lot of people think band is for dorks but if they would just come out and see us and support us then people would see we can do some really neat things."

And when the band strikes up on Friday night, Owens also hopes the crowd will take time to take them in. "It is incredibly difficult for 60 to 70 kids, 16 to 18 years old to corral their growing bodies and do this," he said. "But the kids work hard, they deserve the support."