Marching to the End of the Season

Lottie Gidal, News and Sports Editor

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As the sounds of the Beatles’ Hey Jude filled the gym, students and parents alike waved their arms to the rhythm, signaling the end to yet another marching band season.

“That’s always a really exciting concert, just to see everyone come together in celebration,” director Aaron Ottmar said. “We had a really great season and I think that was a great way of capping it off.”

Bates Field Follies is the annual concert for parents, a chance for the band to show off what they have been working on in a different setting than their usual Friday night football games. The theme for song selection this year was jazz, and students performed their four pieces Caravan, Afro Blue, Echano, and Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing.

“It’s fun music that has lots of life, and I think the students really bought into it,” Ottmar said. “It was really fun to have that theme of jazz, particularly in a school like this where lots of people, and really the whole community is into jazz.”

In addition to their varying theme songs, the band plays You Can Call Me Al, Hey Baby, Seven Nation Army, You Can’t Stop The Beat, and Hey Jude every year. Drumline captain and senior Aidan Smith has been in Bates Field Follies since eighth grade.

“To be able to play all those songs I’ve played for four years now one last time was pretty fun,” Smith said. “After seeing all the seniors before me, and then finally being a senior and doing it for the last time, well, it’s interesting how everything unfolds, without realizing how quickly it’s all gone by.”

But not only high school students participate in the Follies. Eighth graders from South East Junior High’s marching band come up to play one song with their future bandmates.

“It was really cool and impressive to see people who are just a few years older than me play really hard pieces,” bassoon player Amelia Lang-Fallon ‘23 said. “I was nervous knowing that that might be me next year.”

South East also had an opportunity to play with City High earlier in the season, performing the fight song at a football game.

“Playing with City High at a football game was really fun but quite intimidating because of how good they were,” Lang-Fallon said. “They had every step down to a march and it was like wow. It really motivates me to put more effort into my playing.”

According to Ottmar, the senior leadership from Smith and others this year has been exceptional.

“It really boiled down to having great leadership, from the drum majors to the section leaders, to even other members of sections that weren’t necessarily given the title of leaders,” Ottmar said. “It happens every year, people step up. But I think in particular, with this senior class, we are going to be missing a lot of great leadership.”

At recent a recent competition in Ames, Iowa, the band had an opportunity to put their leadership to the test. Going up against three other schools, the band was judged on four different sections, or captions, (i.e. winds and brass, drumline, drum majors, and —) as well as their overall presentation. City High came in third in the last category, but was able to win the winds and brass award, something Ottmar says is something the students should be very proud of.

“That’s a really big deal because the band that got first in our class is a very competitive marching band, they go to a competition on a national level,” Ottmar said. “The fact that we got this caption award over them is a huge deal, so I try to tell the students that, something to really hang their hat on.”

The — is the only competition the marching band participates in, and this year there were some challenges going in. Bad weather, shortened practice time, and a need to prepare for other events stood in the way of the students. But Ottmar says that once again, the leadership he sees on a daily basis really pulled it all together.

“If you don’t have a good leadership team for marching band, you could have the best players in the world and it just wouldn’t happen, it really wouldn’t,” Ottmar said. “They have left a great mark of keeping tradition here, but bringing some new enthusiasm to it as well and really wanting to help each other out and hold each other accountable. It’s sad to see them go, but they made a great mark on our marching band. I know that they will all go from here and do wonderful things, whether its marching band or not.”

In fact, because of the positive times they experienced in high school marching band, many seniors are looking to continue on at the collegiate level.

“I will definitely continue marching in college,” Smith said. “Not just if I have time, it will be on my list to do, no matter where it’s at. I honestly think marching band takes a whole different technique than normal concert band when you’re just standing there playing things. When everyone works together to do that and works together to learn the music it sounds amazing.”

Part of this, Ottmar says, presents itself in the small traditions that keeps everyone excited. From a moment in a drumline solo where all the students jump into the air, or a loud yell at the end of a song, the enthusiasm the players bring to marching band is never lacking.

“Just little things like that, that are really silly and cheesy and literally have nothing to do with making marching band better, except that its something fun,” Ottmar said. “They’ll remember that, and those little things along the way make a big difference and that can be a reason why people enjoy being in marching band.”