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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Marching to the beat

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sikeston Senior HIgh Marchin Bulldog Jacob Alsup practices his marching at a recent practice.
SIKESTON -- "Those lines are terrible," Mark McCord, one of the Sikeston High School Band directors shouted to band students. "Fix them."

With help from senior drum majors and staff, the group of about 110 students shifted in position to get it right.

High school marching bands are now gearing up for their game performances as well as parades and band competitions.

"We give our kids a place to belong, a place to feel a part of the school," said Butch Owens, band director at New Madrid County Central. "It's a chance for them to take some pride in the school."

New Madrid County Central and Sikeston, like other schools, had voluntary band camps for students in late July and early August.

Sikeston HIgh School band student Elizabeth mooneyhan works on marching.
"We pull the freshman in and teach them the basics of marching," said Darren Steelman, another Sikeston director. "Then the whole band comes in and we do a refresher for upperclassmen on the basics."

One of the main focuses at camp is to learn drills performed at competitions and games.

"The show has a twofold purpose," said Chris Starr, band director at Charleston High School. "First to entertain the fans at the football games and second, to have a show that is fun for the kids and enjoyable for the crowd."

Owens agreed. "If you talk to our football coach, he'd probably say having the band there adds a great deal," he said. "We're there to provide excitement for the crowd, and the band enhances the whole emotional feel of the football game."

In fact, he and Steelman encouraged football spectators to wait a little bit to get their hot dogs at halftime.

"We try to do music the crowd will recognize or at least enjoy," Steelman said. "If they take a chance to listen, they might be pleasantly surprised."

The directors pointed out that some people come to games to support and watch the band.

The drills, which are choreographed with help of computer programs, are also performed at competitions and parades. In fact, New Madrid County Central's band has been invited to perform during the pregame show at SEMO on Sept. 29.

And in Charleston, the Southeast Missouri Band Association will host a competition Oct. 13, Starr said.

Sikeston senior Trevor Robinson, who is a drum major, enjoys the competitions and the adrenaline that comes with them. "It will be the most positive thing you'll ever go through," he said. "They can be stressful, but all the hard work pays off."

Although some bands exist only for the competition, most are there to provide the atmosphere at games.

For instance, the band at Portageville High School, which was revitalized last year, won't participate in contests, and doesn't perform field shows. But to director Hillary Alexander, it's important that a band, rather than tape, performs the "Star Spangled Banner."

"We probably will compete next year," said Alexander. "I'm more concerned with them learning to read music, etc. than performing."

Alexander spoke of the pluses of being part of the band -- being part of a team, enhancing reading and math skills and a big scholarship pool.

For Ana Woods, a senior drum major at Sikeston who has been part of the band since seventh grade, it has offered a career opportunity and friendships. "I plan to major in music when I go to college," she said.

She said it can be tough getting to school 20 minutes before the official start time for practice, but it's worth it.

Band is something students should at least try, Alexander urged.

"I've never met a person who wishes they didn't learn to play," she said. "I always meet people who say they wish they had."