WATERLOO — It was all a matter of timing Friday as West High School band members worked on a section of music.
“You just take a little too long to get that 16th note,” said director Danny Kleinheinz while he drilled the students on a three-note measure following a rest. “Do we need to go slower?” he asked as they prepared to try again.
Gathered in a half circle on a practice football field, the group marched in place as students played woodwind and brass instruments. In front of school’s gym, color guard members stood in formation while twirling their flags. And under some trees near the entrance to West, percussionists pounded their drums.
The students were completing their first week of marching band camp, which will continue with morning and evening rehearsals for another week. That will be followed by three more days of evening rehearsals before schools starts. The band is preparing for home football game halftime shows, the first of which will be Aug. 31, and four competitions this fall, starting with the Linn-Mar Marching Festival Sept. 22.
Other schools across the Cedar Valley also held marching band camps during the past week. Cedar Falls and Don Bosco high schools were among those who finished their week-long camps. East High School started its camp Wednesday and will continue for another week.
“This year it’s been a little weird,” said West sophomore Carolina Mendez, who plays trombone. Because of rainy weather, the week started inside the school with a focus on music. By Friday, students had been working outside in the heat for a couple days and some were starting to get sunburns.
Mendez noted the band had also been working on its marching, including part of Friday morning. Things were starting to come together, in her view.
“Sections are getting to know each other,” she said. “I feel like the freshmen and finally getting comfortable.”
Freshmen mellophone players Toby Morley and Andrew Congdon acknowledged the difficulty of learning to march, but took the long view.
“It’s really fun. It’s hard,” said Morley.
“I think the more we learn all the marching, it will be fun where we can play it all together,” said Congdon.
Junior Sandra Smith agreed.
“It’ll pay off in the end,” said the baritone player, suggesting they were already making progress. “It sounds really great. The music is really coming along.”
West’s show is based on “Chess: The Musical,” written in the 1980s. “There is a small revival of the show going on on Broadway,” said Kleinheinz.
There are between 170 and 180 students in the marching band.
“So it will be the biggest band that the school’s had for a while,” said Kleinheinz, who co-directs the band with Michael Prichard and Luke Sanders. “We have 40 or so freshmen marching with us, and we have 30 who aren’t.”
This is the second year freshmen who join the band have the option of not marching during their first year, which is leading to some growth. “The freshman class is nearly double the senior class right now,” said Kleinheinz. And some of the students who didn’t march last year are remaining in band as sophomores.
East High School’s marching band is seeing some growth in its freshmen ranks, as well. There are about 80 members this year, counting the color guard. Director Joelle Smith noted it didn’t have a color guard last year due to a lack of student interest.
They are preparing for a show that Smith created.
“Our theme this year is ‘Xs to Zs,’ which features music of Generations X and Z,” she said, and will include songs by Elton John, Billy Joel, Coldplay and Greenday. “The show’s got a really nice flow to it.”
The band will perform during the East and West game Friday, the season’s first, on the new artificial turf at Waterloo Memorial Stadium. Their first of two marching competitions will be Sept. 29 at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School’s Bands Across the Prairie.
Cedar Falls High School’s 172-member 10th- through 12th-grade marching band is doing a show called “Caravan: Tales from the Silk Road.” It incorporates the songs “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, “Scheherazad” by Nokolia Rimsky-Korsakov and “Bacchanale” by Camille Saint-Saens.
“Those three themes are heard throughout the show and combined at the beginning and the end,” said Kyle Engelhardt, who co-directs the band with Gerald Ramsey. “It’s a really unique show and should be a really high-energy show, as well.”
Their first home game will be Aug. 31. In addition to football games, the band performs during the Iowa High School Music Association Marching Band Festival at Dubuque Senior High School Oct. 6. The East and West bands will also be at that festival.
Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville is doing a show entitled “Musical Moments” with selections from “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Greatest Showman,” “Les Miserables” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The band’s first home game performance will be Friday. It will also perform at the state marching contest Oct. 6 and two contests in Wilton and Muscatine that day.
“Our numbers are up a little this year in our band, but we will have a lot of first-time marchers so we will be pretty inexperienced,” director Myron Mikita said in an email. “The attitude and excitement are there among all of the band members, so it should be a fun marching season.”