Hundreds of talented Edmond marching band musicians headed north to Owasso last weekend to compete in one of the state’s most prestigious marching band competitions, attended by many of the state’s 6A schools. Students from Edmond North, Edmond Memorial and Edmond Santa Fe high schools strutted their stuff at the The Oklahoma Bandmasters Association "Marching Band Championship Competition," proudly showing off Edmond’s outstanding music programs.
Of 20 marching bands competing, Edmond Santa Fe ranked 13th, Edmond Memorial ranked 12th and Edmond North ranked 7th.
The Edmond North marching band performed a program titled “Fly Away” and featured “One Day I’ll Fly Away” from Moulin Rouge, "Medea’s Dance of Vengeance” by Barber, selections from the original soundtrack to the movie “Atonement” by Dario Marianelli, “Nature Boy” from Moulin Rouge and “Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky.
“The North band students have many strengths,” said Greg Mangus, Edmond North High School band director. The band is made up of 200 students. “The students have an incredible ability to learn the show quickly and perform it at a very high level."
The students performed a visually and musically creative program that highlighted the band's unique personality.
“Our program featured a very high level of musicianship that was communicated by exceptional soloists, impressive section features, and bold ensemble moments,” Mangus said. “The color guard rose to new heights in this year’s program with dramatic and expressive soloists and ensemble features that depicted the 'Fly Away' narrative."
Sarah Neely, band director at Edmond Santa Fe echoed Mangus’ sentiments about her 178 students’ dedication and talent.
“Our kids are fantastic,” Neely said. “They have a great work ethic. They have a positive attitude and a great sense of humor, which I really appreciate.
“What that affords us is that they play their instruments really well. We put really challenging music in front of them and they learned it all. They move well, well played. Which is a skill that takes some work.”
Her students performed a program titled “SymPhoney,” with symphonic selections from Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Muller.
“I think all three of our high schools should be really proud of the effort our kids put in … consistently through what we are about to finish," Neely said.
"The amount of time they commit to each other and the program, it’s really exciting to see that and the results that they get,” said Jeff Jahnke, director of the Edmond Memorial High School marching band.
The Memorial marching band has 192 students and performed “Game On,” at modernized take on “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini. The theme was based on ’80s video games, including homages to Atari to Super Mario Brothers.
“I think the band as a whole, not just marching band but what they do throughout the year is why we attract so many kids. We attract different kids for different reasons,” Jahnke said. “Some love concert band, some love marching, some are in between.”
With a mixture of extra-ambitious students and those who are in band for the enjoyment of music and the social aspect, Edmond’s marching bands are enormously popular.
One secret to Edmond’s successful music programs is its attention to the needs and interests of the district’s students.
“I think Edmond really supports arts whether it be band, orchestra, vocal music, drama,” Neely said. “But Edmond has outstanding athletics as well. We have outstanding speech and debate. I think Edmond knows that kids enjoy different things and wants to support all their interests. And the district is really thoughtful about making sure that all programs are funded as they need to be.”
Marching band is an exceptional experience for high school students, Mangus said, because it teaches them how to succeed in a team environment.
“Students are pushed to put the team before themselves, meet high level performance expectations, learn to work in a team, balance demanding schedules, manage conflict, perform in front of large audiences, and many many other life skills,” he said. “These are skills that are extremely important to being successful in life and they are skills that are often not developed in other academic classes."
Music education also lets kids develop artistic self-expression, he added, planting the seed of a lifelong enjoyment of music and the fine arts.
The three high schools hit the road Tuesday as well, headed to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association music contest at Yukon where they will compete not for rankings, but for ratings. To find the marching bands’ ratings, go online to OSSAA.com and search under the “non-athletic” tab.