WATERLOO — High school marching bands have been honing drills and fine-tuning music in preparation for Saturday’s showcase of their field shows.

A total of 17 bands will perform during the State Marching Band Festival at Waterloo Memorial Stadium. The event is hosted by West High School this year.

“The first band starts at 9 o’clock,” said Michael Prichard, West’s co-director. “We’re the last band to perform. We perform at 2:30.”

A new band takes the field about every 15 minutes.

Held at the stadium every other year, the annual festival is sanctioned by the Iowa High School Music Association. Admission costs $7 for adults and $3 for students ages 6 to 18. Children ages 5 and younger are free.

It is one of four festivals high school bands will participate in across the northern half of the state Saturday. Some area bands will be at those other locations, including Don Bosco and South Tama County high schools at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, and Aplington-Parkersburg and Charles City high schools at Fort Dodge. Southern Iowa bands will hold their state festivals the following weekend.

This week, West’s 160-member band has been working at the “micro-level” to improve its show, said Prichard. “Right now, we’re just kind of working on cleaning and refining the drills.”

“Galaxy Suite” is the name of West’s show. It includes classical-style music with space-related themes by Richard Strauss, Gustav Holst, Claude Debussy and James Horner. Students have been showing steady progress during recent weeks.

“I feel like every time they perform, they make a little improvement,” said Prichard. The band has played at three competitions during the last two weeks as well as at the halftime of home football games this fall. On Saturday, “we’ll get a good representation of the kids’ hard work.”

East High School’s band has been working hard, as well.

“There’s a lot of details we need to work out,” director Joelle Smith said earlier this week. The band’s “Beatlemania” show includes five Beatles songs. She hopes to add more visual elements for the Saturday performance.

The band, with more than 70 members, has been playing at the halftime of home football games and performed at its first competition of the season last weekend. By watching other bands perform during that event, Smith said her students have “learned a lot about what their potential could be.”

Saturday’s festival differs from marching competitions, where places are awarded as judges tally up the points. Division ratings from one to five awarded at the state festival only reflect the performance of individual bands. Most bands receive Division I or II ratings, indicating a superior or excellent performance.

The 160-member Cedar Falls High School band’s show is titled “Elevated” with songs of Aaron Copland, Cirque du Soleil and John Zdechlik interspersed by recorded clips from various commencement addresses. Co-director Gerald Ramsey said students have met performance goals for music and drills at the halftime of home football games during past weeks, so the whole show is on the field.

“Now we’re in cleaning mode, which is a great place to be,” he noted earlier this week. They’re working on refining the show “so that there’s an incredible precision and accuracy that we’re doing.”

He added, “We hope to execute the performance at a high level. It should be a cool show.”

Denver High School’s 57-member band has been putting the finishing touches on its show in preparation for the festival. It is performing hits from the band Queen.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said director Dan Cooper. “My group’s been playing well.”

An important part for his band will be the assessment from judges on its performance. With that in hand, the band will be ready to move on.

“The marching festival is kind of the end of our marching season,” said Cooper, noting different music will be played for remaining home football games.

“By the time we get to this weekend, I think everybody’s ready to be done with it,” he said.


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