AHS Revives Marching Band
By John Anderson
For the first time in nearly 15 years, Auburn High School will be fielding a marching band this football season. AHS music educator Virginia
Bailey is spearheading this aggressive initiative with a fantastic support staff and a group of forty committed students including eight “pre-freshmen”- exceptional eighth grade music students from Auburn Middle School. The School Committee approved funding for the band, and new uniforms will arrive in mid October.
Although the high school band has done “flex drills” at football games for a couple of years, moving up to full field performances is a big step. According to Ms. Bailey, “Flex drill means that anyone who showed up at the game could march the show- everyone knew the general shape of the forms and just had to stay between the same two people. The shapes could be large or small depending on the number of participants. This year’s show is much more precise with every student having a specific ‘dot’ or mark to hit for each set. It is a lot more exciting for the audience to watch and requires great precision on the part of the students.”
On Wednesday, August 21, I stopped in on the third day of “Band Camp” to see how things were going. The students were practicing the field show that will be performed to the music of Earth, Wind and Fire. When I arrived at 11:30 AM, this group had already been sweating under the hot sun for over two hours. The full band rehearses from 9-3, and the percussion section adds another three hours to perfect their rhythmic contribution.
Ms. Bailey stated the she expected the band to take all week to master the fundamentals and design of the three numbers, but she was pleasantly surprised to have it accomplished by the end of day two. “Fundamentals are basics of marching technique: forward and back step marching, shifts, slides, levels, and body/instrument carriage. Design is the actual shape or picture and also the flow from picture to picture. The best view of the show is from the top bleacher or press box on the 50 yard line.”
With music blaring from portable speakers, the students worked to get their timing right under the direction of Drum Major Tayla Foulkrod, a junior at AHS. AMS music teacher Collin Meyers, standing on a 6 foot scaffold for the “bleachers view”, monitored the practice and stopped things when adjustments were needed. Assisting on the ground were James Joinville, Band and Chorus Director at Quaboag Regional Middle-High School, and Color Guard Instructor Krissi Forgues, a 3rd grade teacher at Julia Bancroft. Ray Dandurand, music teacher at Springfield Central High School, would be in later to work with the percussion section.
Amy Daly Gardner, AHS Class of 1984, spoke with me about the marching band from a past and present perspective. Amy played trombone for 2 years, moved to tuba for a year and concluded her high school days as Drum Major. She went to college at UMass-Amherst and participated in the acclaimed Minuteman Marching Band, then directed by George Parks. Ms. Bailey is also an alumna of this formidable organization.
Amy related that unlike in other parts of the country, Auburn has a great football program but an undeveloped band. In her UMass days, spectators often tailgated in the parking lot if the game wasn’t going well for the Minutemen (very often the case then), but they would reenter the stadium to catch the halftime show. It’s a shame that TV coverage often cuts away from the field during these shows.
Competition will help build the band program, and Amy said, “I hope the community comes out to support them.” The band will participate in Holy Cross Band Day on Sept. 21 and in UMass Band Day at Gillette Stadium on October 12.
Amy’s daughter, Fiona Daly, is a senior at Auburn High and the sole trombone player in the band. They both share excitement about what’s ahead for this fall. The Auburn High School Marching Band will debut at this Friday’s football game against Chicopee Comprehensive. They will also perform at the home games scheduled on Sept. 20 and Oct. 18. If additional home football games are added, the Marching Band will be strutting on to the gridiron as well.