HANCOCK COUNTY — As the band members walked toward the practice area, Pam Eccles hauled a wheeled platform with a huge drum along the walkway, doing her best to keep up.
Eccles, mother of New Palestine High School Marching Dragons percussionist Allen Eccles, has given countless hours throughout the school year to help the marching band at contests and performances. It’s those small acts, sometimes overlooked, that make the band feel like a family.
Each of the 20 marching bands that competed at Saturday’s Indiana State School Music Association Marching Band Semistate Contest boasted a robust support system from family and friends. From the cheering sections wrapped in blankets in the stands at Pike High School in Indianapolis to the people helping tug props and instrument stands, a culture of supporting the bands’ and guards’ efforts permeated the atmosphere.
The Marching Dragons and Greenfield-Central High School’s Cougar Pride Marching Band did not score high enough to advance to the state finals, but their supporters applauded the hard work and accomplishments of the bands and guards.
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Both had earned top scores at open class regional competitions Oct. 14, nabbing them spots in the semi-state competition at Pike. Some 80 bands and their guards competed in the open class semi-state contest at four sites throughout the state Saturday.
The 45th Annual Indiana State Marching Band Finals will be Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
At last weekend’s competition, Greenfield-Central’s band and guard performed “Echoes Reflected,” a show featuring the music of Beethoven and repeated elements of musical echoes and mirrored movements by the dancers and musicians. The band and guard performed amid huge mirror-like props cut into curved shapes.
New Palestine’s band took the field with “Mantra: the Energy Within,” a show packed with mystical symbolism. The band’s props featured symbols of the chakras, or centers of energy in the body in the tradition of several Indian religions. Members of the guard included yoga poses among their dancing, flags and rifle tosses.
Support for local teams came from both those who braved the cold to attend on Saturday and those who waited anxiously at home to hear the results.
Greenfield-Central principal Jason Cary tweeted that while he knew the band members didn’t get the results they wanted from the semistate contest, he was proud of them.
The brisk weather challenged the musicians and performers, admitted Cougar Pride assistant director Jeremy Basso. Those who played brass instruments puffed warm breath into their trumpets and baritones as they prepared to take the field, a tactic Basso said helps the instruments stay in tune despite the chill in the air.
It was a far cry from one contest earlier this year, when the Cougar Pride competed in Avon through a heat index in the upper 90s, Basso recalled. Though extreme heat comes with its own obstacles, he prefers it to performing in cold weather.
All seasons, parents and friends have found ways to lend their time and talents, picking up the slack and documenting just what it takes to put together a show worth watching.
Carol Plouch volunteered her time throughout the season to photograph the Cougar Pride’s performances, sharing her pictures with other parents of the 165 members of the marching band and guard.
The mother of baritone player Isaac Plouch, she’s particularly enjoyed this year’s show.
“Marching band is much more theatrical than it used to be,” she said. “It’s more than a military march; there’s dance, storytelling and theater involved as well.”
It’s been a pleasure to watch G-C band director Chris Wing and other marching band leaders build the show element by element over the last year, she said.
Basso wanted to give those parents and fans, who have watched them work from the ground up, a victory.
“It’s unfortunate we don’t get to share with the community the fun of going to the next level,” he said. “We feel bad for a lot of these parents who come out and support us every weekend.”
Leadership with the Cougar Pride Marching Band will focus on improving this year’s show and start thinking about next year’s performances, Basso said.
As the New Palestine band and guard returned to their buses and trucks in the parking lot, Amanda Aldridge, mother of saxophone player Alayna Aldridge, said she wasn’t focused on final scores.
“They did awesome,” she said. “These kids have worked really hard, and it shows.”