August 28, 2013Fresh off of the program's best season, the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School Marching Wolfpack are taking another step forward this year, as they will host the inaugural Crawford County Season Preview Festival on Sept. 7.
Besides further establishing the program's credentials within the band community, the festival, which will feature bands from throughout Southern Indiana, is important for another reason. Operating on a limited budget, hosting a show is a significant fundraising opportunity for programs.
While there is no fee for the bands to participate, the Marching Wolfpack hope to raise funds to help the program through concession sales and a $5 admission charge.
More than that, however, the festival allows the growing band program to showcase itself, as well as the talents of area bands, to the community, as each will perform their 2013 shows. This year, the Marching Wolfpack will offer their take on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake."
"The show is really cool," band director John Fisher said, noting that, like last year's show, "Se7en: Of Vice and Virtue," it features classical music. "But it's really driving and intense classical music."
He added that most people, while they may not know the entire ballet, are familiar with the main melody.
"The neat thing about the music is it's approachable to people who don't like classical music or don't know of the music, but, at the same time, it's really approachable for the people in the band field that do know the music," Fisher said.
The show, he said, is a departure, in terms of theme, from what the band has done in past years. Without giving away too many details, Fisher added that Crawford County's version of "Swan Lake" breaks from the original version and is a story about how "love will conquer all." However, he cautioned, it is "a very roundabout love story, but still a love story."
Jacob Bechman, who joins the colorguard this year, will portray the prince, while Ashley Bowles will be the princess and Elizabeth Mottern will play the evil temptress.
Fisher said preparations for the show began around Christmas, when he sent several ideas to his wife, Jaime, who oversees the colorguard, and Michael Sharp, the band's percussion/battery instructor, several ideas.
Once a selection is made, Fisher and his wife spend months on the show. He prepares the music — in this case, chopping 2-1/2 hours of ballet music down to eight minutes and arranging it for the band's instruments — and Jaime choreographs the colorguard and assists with writing the player movements.
Although one of the most popular ballets of all time, Fisher said he doesn't recall seeing "Swan Lake" performed at a marching band competition. He said his students may have been a little apprehensive at first, but that soon changed.
"When they heard the music, that's when they got excited," he said.
With the Marching Wolfpack having advanced to Indiana State School Music Association semi-state competition for the first time last season, expectations are high. Fisher, however, said the external expectations mean little, as he is concerned mainly about improving the program and better preparing students in the classroom.
Fisher credited the improvement the competitive marching band program, which began after he came to CCJSHS in 2005, has seen to consistency and those internal expectations.
"Consistency in terms of me being here for eight years, nine years now. … And, then, a consistent approach in terms of how we do things. The kids that have been in here for years, there's no surprises. They know what to expect," he said.
"So, consistency number one and then number two is raising your expectations every single year. Every year trying to be better than the previous year."
This year's marching band has a record 62 members — 47 players, two field commanders and 13 colorguard members — which is up from last year's 54. Fisher said Joanna Duncan again will serve as the backfield commander, while Jared Massengale, who was the drum major last year when he was a freshman, will continue in that role, allowing the program to build continuity. While the pair serve as the band's primary leaders, each member is equally vital to its success, he said.
"Our philosophy is that each spot on the field is as important as the next spot," Fisher said.
Massengale, who said he learned a lot last year, agreed, saying he is a regular member of the band, just with a different job.
He said the band's increasing success during the past several seasons is a result of its hard work, from the all-day, two-week band camp in the summer to the 3-1/2-hour evening practices twice a week and sometimes more during the competition season.
"I can definitely credit it toward the students," Massengale said. "The students are always working hard and pushing themselves to do better."
Sophomore saxophone player Chris Douglas said he understood how much work was involved when he joined the band a year ago, but only partially.
"I did and I didn't," he said.
Douglas added that it is his responsibility, along with that of the other returnees, to instill the necessary work ethic into new members.
Junior John East, who plays center snare drum, said the band members, by spending so much time together for about three months during the year, become close as a group.
That closeness, Massengale said, helps in guiding younger members.
Fisher agreed that student leadership is extremely important, saying each generation passes along more to the next.
"Overall, success breeds success," he said.