Marching band prepares for performance under bright lights

Sam Mitchell

The Emerald Regiment prepares for their performance at the Providence Bowl and their first marching band competition the following day. Practice starts at 7:00 a.m. for band members daily. Photo by Daphne Yu
While Rock Bridge students plan to fill up Faurot Field tonight for the annual Providence Bowl to support the football team, the marching band is there for another reason. For the Marching Band, the Providence Bowl is more than just another football game or a performance on a year long schedule; it is a chance to perform at a higher level, on a bigger stage and in front of a much larger and more diverse crowd.
“It is the most important of all the football games,” senior clarinetist Jacob Freyermuth said. “ It gives us a chance to perform in an exciting and high pressure environment.  We look forward to getting to perform for such a big crowd and getting to be involved in such an exciting game.”
The Providence Bowl gives the band its only chance during the marching band season to perform in a large college venue in front of thousands of new fans.  It is also an event that creates a change from the monotony of performing on the same field, in front of the same parents, players and avid fans week after week. In the Providence Bowl, however the band can bring its skills and hard work to a whole new audience.
“It’s a bigger venue, and a lot of people there watching,” Assistant Band Director Bob Thalhuber said. “Right now, we’ve only been playing at our stadium and our bleachers aren’t really high. It’s a different environment so students are out of their comfort zone. And we like to get them out of their comfort zone because all of our festivals are out of their comfort zone.”
Another aspect of the performance that makes it more exciting than the others is the presence of cross-town rival Hickman High School.  While the rivalry between bands is not as extreme as the rivalry between sports teams, there is still a sense of competition between the two squads. The two high school bands rarely meet during the year so it is a good chance to measure each other’s progress.
“For the Providence Bowl,” Freyermuth said, “we want to prove that we are the best band on the field, so we definitely try to elevate every level of our performance knowing that we are being compared against them.”
While performing on this big stage can add to the excitement, it can also add to the stress because of the different challenges it poses.
College football fields have hash marks and numbers that are closer to the middle of the field than on a high school field.  This variation from the usual field conditions can create some issues with band members in knowing where to be on the field at specific times during the performance.
These subtle differences can go unnoticed to the common observer but they can create some real difficulties for the performers.  Practice is the only way to prepare for these problems and ensure that they do not cause trouble come the day of the performance.
“When we march at Mizzou it is always more stressful,” Freyermuth said.  “The familiar aides aren’t there and you have to focus even harder to make sure you are in the right spot at the right time.”
In the days leading up to these performances, leadership and guidance from more experienced band members is critical to getting the most out of practice and preparing for the challenge.
“The week leading up [to the game] is a time when everyone buckles down and focuses,”  junior trumpet player Jessica Klein said.  “The seniors and section leaders get everyone pumped and focused to do our best showing yet.”
RBHS Marching Band director Steve Mathews also helps students prepare to take the big stage by keeping the performance in perspective, rehersing for the Providence Bowl as if it were any other event.  He attempts to keep the band focused on steadily improving each game, not just because it is on a big stage or against a rival school.
“We always try to have a better performance each week,” said Mathews, “But not necessarily because Hickman is there.”
The experience of working toward a common goal and overcoming obstacles makes the actual performance day that much more exciting.  Band members bond during the first half of the game leading up to the performance, cheering as if they were any other student coming out to root for their team.
“We just try to hang out and relax,” said Freyermuth.  “It’s actually lots of fun.  This game brings us together in awesome ways.”
All of the hard work, excitement, stress and nerves culminate with the marching band taking the field as one.
“As you step out of the tunnel you don’t know what to expect,” said Klein.  “The stadium opens up.  It hits you.  You realize you are about to be performing for that many people.”
By Sam Mitchell