The Swanton High School Marching Band just completed a lengthy week of practice in preparation for the new marching season.
For the ensemble band camp is essential for practicing fundamentals that will progress students through this year’s marching band season and others to come. From Monday to Friday, the band works vigorously learning marching technique, rehearsing and memorizing music plus field drill for its competitive show, and then combining all of these elements to perform the final product.
With all of the strenuous work, band director Samantha Preisner places full importance on the students’ enjoyment of the week. The week’s schedule provides entertainment for the students to celebrate their accomplishments.
“We have themed dress-up days as well as meals and parties hosted by parents, local businesses, and churches,” said Preisner.
This year’s ensemble, comprised of 52 students, is working to learn and perform its 2018 competitive show “Phoenix Rising.” Swanton is one of several high school bands in the region that competes as a member of the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA). The band has fared well in recent years, earning qualification for OMEA state in the past three seasons, as well as earning several awards in their class, including best music, best auxiliary, best general effect, and more.
These accomplishments are a product of the students’ dedication and work ethic, all of which are emphasized in the band’s goals for the season. One of the band’s central objectives is to continue its state qualification streak for the fourth year, but this is not possible without fulfilling other important goals.
Preisner hopes to “[create] a band-family atmosphere where everyone is having fun [while ensuring that] each student is doing his or her personal best to contribute to the success of the whole band.”
These goals are further accentuated by leadership in the band. Each section of the ensemble has members assigned to assist fellow peers and band staff in maintaining diligent practice while stressing encouragement across the board.
Michala McMahan, one of the band’s drum majors, as well as a member of the color guard, has several responsibilities.
That includes “helping to get everyone to the practice field and warmed up so they’re ready to begin rehearsal. I try to help the band stay as productive as possible so that we are always putting in our best work,” she said. To keep the band encouraged, she says that “as leadership, we [give sections] awards for each day. During the dress up days, prizes would be awarded for anyone that participated.”
Senior Nicholai Leininger, a percussion section leader and the president of the band, said, “I believe to be a section leader, or a leader in general, some important qualities include compassion, being able to remain calm, and quick problem solving skills.”
Going forward, the band will be hard at work for the remainder of the season. A day following band camp, students rose early to play at the Wauseon Homecoming parade, which is one of several parades left in the year, spanning from this summer to the end of the school year. The band will also travel with the football team at both home and away games to support the players and display their talents.
Those same talents will be displayed to the eyes and ears of OMEA judges throughout the year in an effort to perform in state finals. The last chance for qualification will be on the band’s home field during Swanton’s annual Bulldog Bowl competition. And on top of these events, the band will be regularly practicing both in and out of school.
This demanding work, however, is no problem to the students in the band. For them, it’s just another piece to the fabric that makes the experience unforgettable.
Junior flutist and percussionist Kaitlyn Solarek describes her experience in band as one of unity. “I really love everyone in band; every one is there for each other. We are all in a big family.” She believes that hard work keeps the ensemble together.
Sophomore clarinetist Hannah Patch enjoys the social aspect of band, saying it “makes me happy [and I] have fun hanging out with my friends.” Furthermore, she said, “hard work does pay off, especially for state and things like that.”
Sophomore flutist Rachel Waszak has several memories of band. “One of my favorite memories [is] from freshman year after we performed at Bulldog Bowl and we found out that we qualified for state. It was such a great feeling because it was like all of our hard work paid off.” She enjoys “the feeling of performing and getting to know different groups of people from different grades. You may get close with people you may have never thought you would become friends with.”
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