INDIANAPOLIS — Minutes before the Cougar Pride Marching Band started filing toward the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, Chris Wing had one last challenge for his students ahead of their show.
“Be memorable. Be extraordinary,” Wing said. “We didn’t come all the way here to be ordinary.”
That hard work — more than 400 hours of practicing and performing for months — paid off.
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Greenfield-Central High School’s marching band placed first in Class B at the Indiana State School Music Association’s State Finals on Saturday, Nov. 9 — the first state band championship in school history.
Looks of shock and excitement came over the faces of the 160-member Cougar Pride Marching Band when they heard Greenwood High School — last year’s victor — was named as the runner-up, putting Greenfield-Central in first. The students immediately started jumping, cheering, hugging and crying.
“This is the most awesome feeling I think I’ve ever experienced,” said Brooklyn Harpold, senior drum major.
After the band finished celebrating its victory on the field, they walked outside to start packing up for the trip back to Greenfield. As they gathered on the chilly parking lot outside Lucas Oil, Wing, the band’s director, said their first-place finish doesn’t make the band any better than they’ve been all year.
“They’ve been hard workers since day one. They never shied away from doing anything we asked them to do,” Wing said. “This doesn’t validate anything. This is just the icing on the cake.”
Last year, Cougar Pride finished second to Greenwood, and in 2016, the marching band was runner-up to Northview High School. Those two schools are the most decorated bands in Class B, Wing said.
While Wing said the band tries not to make its performances and competitions about points, places and trophies, the students couldn’t help but smile and show off their “Cougar Pride” on Saturday. Dozens of Greenfield-Central fans cheered from the stands as the final results rolled in.
Brooklyn said once the show wrapped up, she felt like the band had played their best all season.
“I have never cried right after a run,” Brooklyn said. “I got off the podium and Mr. Wing came up and told me ‘good job’ and I just started crying.”
Haley Harper, a junior drum major, said the victory was “overwhelming in the best way possible.”
Greenfield-Central’s show, called “The Music of the Night,” focused on sounds commonly heard in the dark, such as the movements and noises coming from nocturnal animals and other creatures. The band led the audience through renditions of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” “Clair de Lune” and “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles, coupled with animal noises as segues between songs.
The band started the performance slumped over their instruments, like sleeping animals at night. In one part, the wind ensemble stopped playing and performed a choreographed dance as the drums played. Some of the students huddled together like monkeys, and others rolled around the field.
This year, the marching band students approached the season with a different mindset, Brooklyn and Haley said. They remained positive throughout each competition and were motivated to improve. Wing said this year’s group has been the “easiest” to work with in his eighth years as band director.
Wing said the band also couldn’t have made it to state without the help of parents. Nearly 50 parents volunteer throughout the season at most competitions, said Nate Day, band booster president. They chaperone events, bring equipment and props on and off the field and make meals for the students.
The band performs on and around a 60-foot bridge on the field — which several band parents spent about 300 hours building since July, said Day, who has two students in the band program.
“It’s easy to support these kids when they work as hard as they do,” Day said. “Out of all the things my kids could do, this is pretty awesome.”
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See more of Tom Russo’s photographs of the new state champions with the online version of this story at www.greenfieldreporter.com