The beat goes on... but not without lots and lots of work. School marching bands put in many hours

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:54 PM

Small or large, area marching bands work long hours getting ready for halftime shows.

The 120-piece Edison High School marching band, under the direction of Denise Reilly, rehearses for an hour in the middle of every school day.

The band does a new show every two weeks. They had mastered 14 songs by the end of band camp, before school even started. Reilly recalled "the coolest day was 98," so a partly cloudy Aug. 31 practice with a slight breeze was "heaven."

By the end of football season, Edison will have done four or five different shows.

"We've got a reunion show where the seniors choose their favorite four or five shows from the past," snare drummer Brianne Bolding said.

Edison senior Bryan Hayes has been in the band for four years and considers the experience a lot of fun.

"I know the drum line is pretty tight," the snare drummer said.

"We're like a family," added Bolding, also a senior.

She likes being a part of the charismatic show band.

"The crowd likes it because it's flashy. We dance and not a lot of other bands dance," Bolding explained.

How much boogying does the Edison band do? Even while practicing marching in parade formations around the school parking lot, band members broke into choreographed moves as the drummers played their cadence.

During dances incorporated into halftime shows, Hayes said the drum line tends to improvise.

"(During) the end song, we usually do pyramids and (set off) fireworks," he said.


The 35-member Monroeville High School marching band, under the direction of Kim Gochenour, puts in just as many hours as Edison does. Like Edison, Monroeville will have learned four or five different shows by the end of football season.

The Monroeville band camp at Kelleys Island lasted from the last week of July through the first week of August. The band practices for about an hour and 15 minutes each day after school.

"They learned their first show in three days at camp. They worked really hard this year," said color guard advisor Jennifer Lonz.

She is quite familiar with Monroeville's band she was a color guard member for four years as a student. Lonz now teaches third grade in the school system and is in her third year overseeing the color guard.

"It's neat to see how it changed and has grown. I feel a lot more connected than I was somewhere else," she said.

Seventh-grade flutist Candice Smith is in her first year with the Monroeville band.

"My dad played football so I thought it would be cool to learn what it was like to be on the field," she said.

Trumpeter Alyssa Herber, a senior, is doing her first solo this year in one of the band's opening numbers. She previously played a duet.

"It's kind of passed senior to senior," she said about the solos. "If there are two, we'd split (them) up."

Herber addressed how being a soloist affects her.

"After being in the band for six or seven years, you get over the nerves. But the first time, it is nerve-wracking; I won't lie," she said.


Reilly, Edison's director, said the band has had about 120 members, including two majorettes, for the last 18 years. She was the assistant under retired director Nick Georgiafandis during that time frame.

"Sometimes it goes up. Sometimes it goes down," Reilly said. "I think they have a lot of pride in the program and we try to keep it as fun for the students as we can."

The new director is all too aware of Georgiafandis' legacy.

While preparing for the Milan Melon Festival, Reilly reminded the students "all eyes will be on you" and people will want to see if Edison "has fallen apart without Mr. G." When she asked the band if that was the case, the students enthusiastically said "No."

Show bands, like Edison, lift their knees high and swing their instruments, while marching. Freshman trumpet player Kevin Niese said putting his knees up doesn't bother him and helps him stay in step. The bell of his horn goes left when his left knee goes up and visa versa.

Haynes, a snare drummer, agreed with Niese. "Everybody seems to stay in step," Haynes said.

Both he and Bolding said other bands may criticize Edison for being a show band, but they say the charismatic performances get members "pumped up" and keep the audience in the stands during halftime.

Monroeville is considered a corp-style band. The members march using a "heel-ball-toe" stepping style and hold their instruments as a military band does.

Lonz, a 2001 Monroeville graduate, remembers the band varying from 35 to 50 members in her four years. It presently has 25 instrumentalists and 10 members in the color guard.

Gochenour addressed the challenge of directing a small band for the last four years. She said numbers are low because Monroeville is a small school district, but has many things to offer.

"Everybody wants to be in everything," Gochenour said. "It's a slow building process. We've doubled in size since I started."

Indeed, many students are involved in multiple activities in Monroeville. Two of the junior high students have to leave band practice regularly because they also play football.

Gochenour said the coaches have been flexible with practice times.

"We share time and it works pretty well," she added.

Majorette Joy Thompson does double duty, too. She wears her cheerleading uniform for the pregame show, then changes into her majorette outfit just before halftime. Then it's back to being a cheerleader.

"She's running like crazy," Gochenour said. "She works very hard."

The Monroeville band has no drum major this year because sophomore Marie Gessling wanted to play snare drum instead this year. "She does everything ... sax and bells," Lonz said.

Herber finds being a band member fulfilling.

"You can do a lot with it. Obviously, music is everywhere," the trumpet player said. "I think it's the joy of accomplishing a new song or show making it go from 'blah' to 'wow.'"

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