In band this week, musicians from both the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band practiced together for their performances at graduation Saturday and at the Memorial Day parade in two weeks.
Though students say they are still focused, the atmosphere practicing these pieces is much more relaxed than just a few weeks ago, when both bands were scrambling to perfect their concert selections.
“Now that concert season is over, we just have to focus on graduation and the parade,” junior Jacob Freyermuth said. “The music is easier, and it is less stressful.”
However, amidst this less urgent rehearsal setting, two students have already started preparing for next year’s marching band show. Band directors Steve Mathews and Bob Thalhuber selected juniors Alyssa Sykuta and Maggie Washer as the Emerald Regiment’s two drum majors for next year.
The selection process took several weeks, Sykuta said, during which all of the candidates learned to conduct the music for next year’s show. The final audition was also multifaceted and included a conducting portion, a questionnaire, a personal interview and a demonstration of teaching abilities.
The auditionees had to teach “each other so that they could teach and interact with their peers, and then they had to be able to show us different tempo markings, like a quarter note equals 130 [beats per minute], direct that. Because they have to be able to pull those tempos out of the air, so that was the process,” Mathews said. Sykuta and Washer “just demonstrated conducting abilities a little stronger.”
Thalhuber said both girls also had clear patterns when conducting and knew the music well. Washer, who had served as drum major in the fall of 2011, said she auditioned to have the opportunity to have a leadership position in the band again, but having the prior firsthand knowledge also gave her confidence going into the audition.
Still, Washer knew she was not entitled to he position just because she had been a drum major last year, Thalhuber said; however, the skills she had learned last fall helped ease her nerves.
“For [Washer], it was not a rubber stamp. There was no automatic, ‘You’re in,’” Thalhuber said. But “she had experience, and that experience translated into achievement in the audition.”
Unlike Washer, Sykuta had no previous leadership positions in marching band. However, she had participated in the field show by marching with the saxophone her sophomore year and playing in the pit, the stationary sideline percussion section, this past fall, which encouraged her to try out for drum major and see a third aspect of the band.
“I felt like I could relate to everybody kind of just being on two different sides of the whole show,” Sykuta said. “I’m looking forward to experiencing a whole new side of the band program that I haven’t before. Getting the opportunity to step up as a leader… and help other people and make … the band program the best it can be.”
Sykuta was not confident going into the selection process, she said, but she practiced with the other auditionees after school every Tuesday for several weeks. Sykuta even prepared for the instruction portion of the audition by teaching her 11- and 14-year-old brothers.
“I practiced a lot with the CD player, and then I practiced teaching my brothers the skills,” Sykuta said. On the final day of the selection process, “they asked if they had to come to the audition.”
Sykuta was less prepared for the formal interview, she said. The band directors asked each candidate personalized questions. Sykuta’s question involved fixing a dilemma that the band directors had trouble with last year. The problem, which was how to fix the band’s plateau in improvement after one of the competitions, stumped Sykuta, too. But both band directors said Sykuta and Washer, although they have much to learn before next fall, demonstrated immense potential.
“The ball’s in their court. There’s instruction that they still need to go do,” Thalhuber said. But “we wouldn’t pick people unless we knew — we have to know that they have to potential to be the best drum majors we’ve ever had.”
By Nomin-Erdene Jagdagdorj