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Marching band is growing at FHS

Bryce Ward-Cook, Griffin Neu and Hanna Richards rehearse last week at FHS. The marching band will have its second competition of the year Saturday at the Youth in Music Minnesota State Marching Band Championships.1 / 5
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You have to be in shape to be in marching band. Thus, practices start with planks, among other exercises.3 / 5
Drum major Courtney Kimmell directs the band during practice.4 / 5
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Farmington High School’s marching band had a practice last week at Tiger Field, but you could be forgiven if that wasn’t obvious. The kids were there. They had instruments. But there wasn’t always a lot of music.

Instead, the students would march their way through an elaborate foundation, counting off to make sure they kept time. After a few seconds, they would stop, resent and do it all again.

And again.

And then, finally, when everything was just right, they added the music.

If you can’t handle repetition, marching band is probably not the activity for you.

Many of Farmington’s band students are still probably discovering whether a show like this is right for them. This is all still relatively new. Farmington has had a strong band program for years, but public performances were mostly limited to formal concerts and parades. A field show like the one they’re working on now is a completely different experience.

A parade requires precision, but everything is moving in a straight line. A field show requires the creation of elaborate formations, all while keeping time with the music.

“It’s like performing a ballet while doing a musical while playing water polo while carrying 40 pounds on your back,” said senior Tristan McGlauchlen, a member of the band’s drumline.

Those kinds of contortions are familiar at Rosemount High School, which on Saturday at Farmington High School will try to defend its distinction as the only Class AAA band to win the Youth in Music state championship. But Farmington is still a relative newcomer to field shows.

The Tigers put together their first show four years ago and performed it just once, in exhibition, at Rosemount’s annual band festival. They’ve been expanding the program slowly since then and will compete Saturday on their home field. It will be the band’s first time in competition at the state championship after performing in exhibition last year.

Every year, it seems, things get more challenging.

“Our drills get more intense. Our music gets more complicated,” band member Zach Beckner said.

Band director Erin Holmes added the field show at the urging of students, and she’s had students who are eager to expand their competition schedule. But Holmes is trying to balance the benefits of performing in front of band-savvy audiences — and of watching more established bands compete — with the frustration that can come with trying to do too much, too soon. This year, the band’s only competition outside of Youth in Music was at Eastview High School.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve gotten into this circuit a little bit,” Holmes said. “They’ve been begging me to do competition, and they want to try it.”

Holmes said she has gotten a lot of support from other band directors.

Farmington still has a ways to go to match a program like Rosemount, which travels to competitions with a semi trailer full of equipment and is a regular finalist at a regional competition in St. Louis. But the program has a lot of students excited to see it grow. They practice for five hours a week after school to get those details just right.

The students who have helped build the band’s foundation over the past four years see a bright future.

“I would really like to see it keep improving and shooting up,” McGlauchlen said. “We’ve been trying to build it and make it better.”

New uniforms

Part of the process of building the program is getting new uniforms. The current Tiger band uniforms are 23 years old, and in some cases they are literally held together with tape.

The band has raised enough money that it could outfit its current members, Holmes said, but getting enough uniforms in a wide enough variety of sizes to fit any future band members would cost about $100,000.

“It’s not that we want new uniforms. We absolutely need new uniforms,” drum major Courtney Kimmell said. “We need them to transition to where we want to go.”

Youth in Music

Saturday’s Youth in Music competition will take place from 10:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at FHS. Farmington is scheduled to perform at 12:30 p.m. as part of the Class A competition. Rosemount will perform at 3 p.m. in Class AAA.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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