LEXINGTON — The Lexington High School Marching Band is bringing a little slice of the Nile delta to town with their 2019 show, “Hieroglyphs.” The 230 strong band has been rehearsing and learning the show this whole week during band camp.
One of the LHS band directors, Spencer Hansen said on Tuesday, the second day of band camp, the group was still working music and pushing music learning. The underclassmen were also getting more drilling in marching fundamentals, he said.
“Hieroglyphs” is an Egyptian themed show a lot of, “intense driving music,” Hansen said. Electric sound effects will also be a staple in the show. The band will be playing around with different thematic ideas as the season progresses, Hansen said.
The band just keeps adding on new members year after year. With 230 members, it is the largest group the LHS marching band has ever seen. “It’s the biggest we’ve ever had,” said Hansen.
One effect of this large number of students is the whistle commands being introduced to the movement of the band. Hansen said the band has gotten so large voice commands won’t be able to be heard by all members, while a whistle can.
LHS band director Chad Scharff instructed the band members in marching fundamentals during the second day. They rehearsed forward marching and maintaining their lines, and backward marching was added in. Making sure students were in step was also an important task of the directors and drum majors.
The drum majors for the 2019 year are three seniors, Tessa Eldridge, Damian Salinas and Cyrus Rhea.
Also starting their second year with the band are Alex and Emily Woodside, directors who were hired last year to help with the band and their ever growing numbers.
Alex said he is primarily working percussion section, like he did last year. This includes the battery section, better known as the drum line, and the front ensemble.
In terms of progress the band has made, Alex said, “I think the biggest progress we've seen this year is in the students' attitudes. In general, they have been a lot more receptive to feedback, and they have been pushing themselves harder than they did last year.”
He continued, “I think we would like to see the students take more ownership of the band program. We are giving the student leadership team more responsibility this year in an effort to help them realize their contribution to the band's success.”
Alex said he thinks this year’s show fits the large band size really well, “It has big, powerful moments which are accentuated by the size of our band.”
As the band staff, Alex said they are trying to increase the intensity of the instruction, “We are trying to eliminate downtime and push students beyond their perceived limits to be the best they can be.”
Emily is spending most of her time working with the woodwinds and the drum majors when they are inside, and helping with marching fundamentals when the full group is outside.
“This season I would like to see more intensity from this group of students. It is easy to get complacent when you have a superior record from the past, but our goal should be to continue to improve and to perform our best,” said Emily, “We have discussed this idea of intensity with the students and they seem to be responding well. We have seen a lot of hard work and focus from the students so far this week and I expect those things to improve even more as we approach Friday.”
Emily is also a fan of the Egyptian theme and said it provides many opportunities for the band to add visuals to their movements and possibly even from props on the field which will increase the overall appeal of the show.
To help deal with a 200 plus member band, Emily said the students have been divided into smaller squads, which consist of 4-6 students each. Even if the band breaks up into instrumental sections, there are still 20-40 students per section, said Emily.
“The squads allow the leadership members to give more individual attention to members in their squads. With these squads, we're also doing a competition this week. Students can earn points for their squad for things like showing up early, getting caught doing random acts of kindness, or memorizing music,” Emily said, “Squads may lose points if a member shows up late to rehearsal. Even in the past couple of days we have seen an improvement in the number of students showing up on time and putting in effort during rehearsals.”
The biggest challenge Emily sees the band facing is the number of students involved.
“We want to make sure students really feel like a part of this group when they join the band, but it is sometimes easy to get lost in the crowd with the sheer amount of people that come through the band room every day,” she said, “One of the ways we are trying to combat this is with the squads. Our hope is that each student in the group will get to know at least a few other people really well as they work with their squads this week during band camp.”
“I have been excited about the positivity and hard-working attitudes we have seen from the students this week. They have really shown a desire to improve and do their best along with encouraging those around them to do the same,” Emily said about what she is excited about,” That positivity is really important in a group this large because individual attitudes can certainly affect the dynamic of the group as a whole, which in turn affects rehearsals and performances.”
The band will have their first performance on Aug. 30. This performance will be before the game thanks to homecoming. Sept. 13 will be the band’s first half time show, Hansen said.
The LHS band will take their show on the road and participate in three competitions this year, the Links Marching Band Competition, Lincoln Public Schools Invitational and the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association contest at Kearney High School.