Band faces the long road to Grand Nationals

Leah Mulaly

     The Cedar Park High School Band is loved for Metal Shop and various other stand tunes that energize the crowd at Varsity football games, but the band does much more than support the football team. Hours of rehearsal are put into a marching show to be performed at various competitions throughout the first semester, and the Timberwolf band does very well in local and regional competitions. This year, however, the band has their eyes set on a prize much bigger than usual. The regional Bands of America (BOA) competition in San Antonio is no longer the ultimate goal; instead the band will compete in their final contest at BOA Grand Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. This marching band competition is the most prestigious in the United States, with 90 bands from all over the country competing to make twelve spots in finals. The small town of Cedar Park will be represented at the Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time November 10 through 13.

     “I’m really excited to see how all our hard work will pay off,” Suzy Dailey, junior and drum major, said. “It’s going to be a really great experience and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

     The 2010 marching show is entitled “Genius” and represents four great geniuses—Gustav Mahler, a genius of music; Albert Einstein, a genius of math and science; Pablo Picasso, a genius of art and Leonardo Da Vinci, a genius of all geniuses. The “Genius” theme will be portrayed in many ways, via the shapes the band makes on the field, the music that they play, the color guard staging and set design equipment. During the movement that represents Picasso, for example, the color guard will have giant paintbrushes to “paint” the band as they stand in giant picture frames. In the Einstein movement, the band forms the formula E=MC2 on the field, as well as random numbers in another set, as if within Einstein’s brain.

     “We’re hoping that, through the design of the show, we have moments that anyone can understand,” Bob Chreste, marching director, said. “Sometimes shows are too deep—too difficult to understand. We want the show to be understandable enough to a common audience. [Compared to past years,] we’re working harder at making the theme more obvious.”

     Chreste’s goals for the band this year include educating and continually introducing new music to both the students and the community, as well as getting the students excited about playing great music and giving them an enjoyable experience. Also, the band aims to “Move and Inspire” the audience as per their motto and to represent the city of Cedar Park well at Grand Nationals.

     “We want to be better than ever before, to build off prior years and continue to raise the standard of excellence,” Chreste said.

     The band is doing several things to prepare for the high level of competition at Grand Nationals and raise the standard of excellence, many of which have never been done before.

     “Marching band is harder than I expected,” Brian Hottinger, freshman, said. “The heat is hard to deal with and it takes up a lot of time.”

     One of the things that makes marching band more difficult than expected this year is the increased rigor of physical conditioning during summer band rehearsal, which lasted from 8 am to 6 pm, five days a week for three weeks. The directors hired six physical trainers from Tillman Training and Physical Therapy to lead students in the Crossfit fitness program. The exercises were grueling, especially in the record-high heat the band experienced this summer, but many students found themselves in better shape than they’d ever been before.

     “Crossfit really stretched and worked some muscles I never knew I had,” Harrison Clarke, senior, said. “It was hard at first, but it became a lot more fun because everyone was pushing through the pain for the same common goal.”

      Another new addition is a computer program called SmartMusic, which allows students to practice on a computer and assess their skills from home using technology. Students play into a microphone plugged into their computer and SmartMusic evaluates their performance, indicates where notes and rhythms are played incorrectly and grades them. SmartMusic is being used as a substitute to having students coming in before school to play their music in front of a director.

     In addition to new technology, the Cedar Park band was fortunate enough to get a new practice field this year. The old blacktop was repaved with asphalt and the white yard lines and dots to indicate field positions were all repainted.

     Funding for this project was provided by the school district, but funding for the Grand Nationals trip was provided by fundraising and the students’ families themselves. The band participated in Chase Bank Community Giving and placed in the top 100 causes, earning them $20,000 towards Grand Nationals trip costs and show equipment. Band students rallied their friends and families to vote for the CPHS band online and ended in 79th place with 1,804 votes. Other than this very successful and simple fundraiser, the band is selling magazine subscriptions and entertainment passbooks. They also recieve a small amount of money from collecting aluminum cans and shopping at Randall’s grocery store using a Randall’s card with the band’s group number (11508) on it, to have one percent of the receipt donated to the band.

      While many students are excited about the big competition, they are finding band’s demanding rehearsal schedule difficult to balance with other necessary tasks, such as homework. With rehearsal after school for eight hours per week, time becomes limited.

     “I juggle everything,” Cris Reyes, junior, said. “You just do what you have to do and hope it’s enough.”

     Rehearsals are not only time consuming, but difficult. The show is more challenging than ever before, with parts of it requiring students to march and play at 192 and 200 beats per minute, faster than the band has ever gone before.

     “I like the show a lot more this year because it’s more challenging and we have to push ourselves harder,” Dylan Rolfe, senior, said.

     One of the biggest changes that the band faced at the beginning of this year was the replacement of percussion director Paul Pape, who began teaching at Vandegrift High School this year. Roland Chavez, the new percussion director, taught at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio for five years and Mansfield Legacy High School in Dallas for one year before returning to the Austin area, where he attended the University of Texas.

     “I really wanted to return to central Texas because I really like Austin,” Chavez said. “There are good band programs in Leander ISD and of course Cedar Park is a really established and good program.”

     Besides teaching high school drumlines, Chavez was also the Percussion Caption Head for the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps of San Antonio in 2007 and 2008. He was also a member of the Concord Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps snare line in 1995 through 1996.

     The band is working hard to make their show memorable and impressive for Grand Nationals in November, dealing with changes and taking whatever comes their way. Their hard work will take them to Indianapolis and, with luck and more hard work, send them back with a trophy.