Be our neighbor: MCHS Marching Band profile

Be+our+neighbor%3A+MCHS+Marching+Band+profile

Jacey McMinn, Staff Writer

Marching Band is a group of instrumental musicians that perform while marching. The instrumentation in marching band typically includes brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments, but our band also has a color guard. You can see our marching band perform at Friday night football games during halftime or in the stands. However you can also see them perform at Competitions. Mr. Lee is our school’s band director, and I had a wonderful opportunity to interview him to learn more about the marching band and the show. 

The first question I asked Mr. Lee was “What is your theme for this year’s show?”. He then stated “This year’s marching show is titled “What A Good Feeling,” which is centered around the long standing message that Mr. Rogers shared with his audiences of kindness to others and appreciation of oneself. It is in itself a celebration of being you!”. To go with that question I followed up with the question of “What made you choose this theme for this year’s show?”. Mr. Lee said “I have always enjoyed reading about Mr. Rogers and watching clips from his TV show “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” A few years ago I read a book about Mr. Rogers titled Kindness and Wonder by Gavin Edwards that provided insight into the life and legacy of Fred Rogers. His mission was to spread love and kindness with everyone, but focalized his audience on the younger generation with his TV show. Mr. Rogers was not afraid to discuss hard topics that made many uncomfortable such as death, divorce, and anger, but he was able to present these topics with a positive light that  encouraged kids to grow and learn. I recall a scene from one of his later episodes where Mr. Rogers sat with a young boy named Jeff Erlanger who was born with a spinal tumor that left him bound to a wheelchair. Mr. Rogers kindly sat beside Jeff and shared a positive conversation about why he was in a wheelchair and discussed both positive and negative aspects of it. The scene concluded with Mr. Rogers singing his signature song “It’s You I Like” with Jeff. This scene leaves me with tears of encouragement and joy as I see the kindness Mr. Rogers shared with this young man. This is the message we wanted to share with our community this year through our marching show. We focalized another one of Mr. Rogers’s songs that encompasses the very message he instilled in his audience:

It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive,

It’s such a happy feeling your growing inside,

And when you wake up ready to say,

I’m going to make a snappy new day,

It’s such a good feeling

A very good feeling,

The feeling you know that I’ll be back when the day is new,

And I’ll have more ideas for you,

And you’ll have things you’ll want to talk about,

I will too.

The four songs Mr.Lee said are in this show this year are, The title song: “It’s Such a Good Feeling” which serves as the introduction, the middle and the final. The opener is a big band jazz tune that is by Omar Thomas and is titled “I Am”. The closer is a groovy version of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk. The epilogue is the song “It’s You I Like.”

Then I asked him if he liked the way the show is looking so far, and he said “There is so much visual interest in this year’s show. I really enjoy how complex the visual elements are while all continuing to be cohesive to enhance the music. We took extra care in designing the visual elements of the show through flag design, choreography, uniforms, and drill design (the way the members move around the field). Of course the point of what we do is to always improve and make the visual stronger, I am very happy with the way this show looks!” His favorite part of the show is the finale. He thinks it is such a powerful way to present Mr. Rogers, as well as finish the show. When he first heard the ending during production he first thought “Wow! It is really stunning”. However he did say that the big impact of the opener where the band is playing full out and the flags are all open high has to definitely be a goosebump moment. 

To learn more about the show I asked him what all went into the preparation of making the show. He said “The show design process is surprisingly complex. We have to first choose an idea to focalize around. In this instance, it was the song “It’s You I Like” by Mr. Rogers. When choosing music for a show, we consider how songs will impact the audience and which audiences a particular song will impact. For example, music from Mr. Rogers was most likely to impact our older audiences since they grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood each day. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” was more likely to connect to the younger audience since it has many recent covers and has gained popularity with the current high school generation. We try to build a show that connects to a wide audience instead of catering to a specific age group. We want to reach as many people as possible. We also want to find high quality music that is going to challenge our band and colorguard members while being enjoyable to perform for six months.

Once we develop the concept and choose the songs, we begin music production with our arranger who takes our ideas and writes them for our band size and instrumentation. Our shows are customized to us! We went through four drafts of this year’s wind score before finalizing it. Then we send the wind score off to a percussion writer who creates the drumline and front ensemble score to support and emphasize the winds. Once the music is completed, our visual design team gets to work developing the color guard choreography and band formations. We spend many hours illustrating pictures, talking on the phone about ideas, and reviewing drafts to make sure that everything works together beautifully with the music. 

At the same time as visual design, we also begin developing our flag designs and color guard uniform designs. This typically takes several weeks to develop before moving into production.

By the end of July, we have a fully developed marching show, and the next phase of production is executing the design by our band members at band camp. This is where we learn the show and put the initial production on the field. We then spend August, September, and October cleaning the show to make it really something special for our students and audiences.” The people he said that helped him with the preparation of the show are the music and drill writers Chris Creswell and Jeff Willis, color guard choreographer Haley Bowles, flag designer Rick Gleen, and the costume designer Marva Ayloush. He also said that during the marching season they have a whole staff of instructors that are highly skilled and professionally trained teachers or performers. 

Something he would like people to know about the show is that “‘What A Good Feeling’ is designed for everyone! Its intent is to share a positive vibe with all who get to experience it with us. I hope there are times that make you tap your foot, times that give you chills, times that grab on to your heart, and times that you walk away thinking ‘that was fun!’” Then for something he would like for people to know about the marching band is that “Our band works hard, and the show that our band has created for this year is not easy. It presents countless challenges that have pushed and expanded our members skillset to new heights, and this is worth acknowledging. Just like any sport, the ultimate goal is to build strong character, commitment, and leadership. Our band exemplifies this every time they take the field. They work hard at a craft they enjoy and that makes it all worthwhile.”  

I asked him if he gets more nervous for competitions or football games and why. He told me that competitions are more nerve racking for him. He also added “We work hard to share our show, and at a competition, the audience is silent and there solely to enjoy our performance. That’s wonderful, and we certainly want to ensure it’s the best it can be.”

One topic that people in the band and people outside of the band have different opinions on is if the band gets the attention that they think they deserve. This is what Mr. Lee had to say about that topic, “I certainly think there are people who believe the band goes unrecognized for their work or is seen as lesser to other athletics, but the band has a strong support system of parents, teachers, and students that acknowledge and recognize the hours of hard work put in and appreciate the stories we tell. It’s most exciting when we get to share our show with a new audience in the community or at band competitions. I love it when after a performance students will tell me how cool it was to hear the audience cheer and stand for their show! This is what performing is about.” In my next article about the soloist performers I will share their opinion on it as well. 

To his senior marching band members he wants you all to know that, “ You are special! The seniors in our band in a lot of ways drive us forward and lead us to success. This show was designed with the seniors in mind. We wanted a bright and special show that supported and encouraged you in your culminating season with the Red Raider Band. It’s such a good feeling to know that you are a part of this magnificent story!” To all of his band members he wants you all to know that “I love our band and all who are in it. I am not the best at expressing that to people, and I fear that people don’t realize this, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t do if it meant success for each of you!”  

Mr. Lee became a band director because his band directors throughout middle school, high school, and college inspired him to tell stories through music that can impact big groups. He also said “I wanted to encourage young musicians to do the same by working hard, building their skills, and hopefully let that impact another person just as it impacted me. Music is all about sharing experiences with the community. I want to help young musicians create that community.”