Marching band musicians describe their pivotal role in the Bellarmine experience

Antonia Dang leads the symbol section in a recent practice. Photo courtesy of Casey Whitson

Marching band is an integral piece of the football game experience with blaring trumpets, booming bass drums, and ecstatic snares adding a level of excitement to the night that would have been otherwise unreachable.

When asked about what his instrument brings to the energy of the event and how he believes the band contributes as a whole to the atmosphere, tenor drummer Calvin Lo explained, “Obviously we bring the hype. We bring up the spirit of the student body. The band adds an extra oomf to the spirit. My instrument is a drum and it makes a lot of noise. To high school students it is pretty hype. My instrument, along with the other instruments in the marching band as a whole, makes a lot of noise which also sounds good, which is pretty good for high school students in my opinion.”

Saxophonist Eric Kiguru responded, saying, “I am a trombone player and our section, ‘The Bone Zone™️, creates a unique atmosphere that goes unnoticed for the most part, but is still integral to the football game experience. You see, imagine if the games were just some dudes shouting and that’s it; kinda lame right? Maybe play music on the speakers, but let’s be honest, nobody ever dances to the songs. Being in band, our expectation is not to dance, but to fill an important piece, and that piece is entertainment that can still be cringe-inducing, but still quite unique. Tell me the last Seahawks game you heard where a trombone screams a brassy mess of near jazz and near nonsense? (BTW, I’m that guy who does that; sorry to the eardrums of those affected, but it’s fun).”

Antonia Dang added her favorite part of the band experience, saying, “As this year’s cymbal section leader, I can elevate the spirit of Friday Night Lights in a way that most people wouldn’t be able to do. People would be surprised at how versatile cymbals can be whether it’s making noise or being loud and flashy. This may be a controversial opinion but the band makes football games exponentially more entertaining than if we weren’t there. The band is what takes it from being a group of kids throwing a ball around to an actual football game.”

Trumpetist Camryn Santory said, “My favorite part about marching band is being in the stands. I get to bond with everyone around me and play music. There is nothing better than music and friends. As a musician, I have grown immensely from being outside and playing in all conditions. From this, I have become friends with people who I never would have known without band. It truly is such a great community that is open and loving to everybody who wants to be a part of it. Each time we perform, whether it’s just practice or we learn from each other and Mr. Whitson. We all rely on each other to be the best we can be at that moment.”

Band director Casey Whitson seconded this while adding his perspective as the band director. “I’d say I have two favorite parts. One is getting to be up in the box and seeing my students put together a show that I designed. It is cool to see them accomplish something I put together on the field. It is cool to see the students be part of the marching band, playing together, and sitting in the stands. It is cool to see them come together and experience it like I did as a kid. You see those friendships flourish and exist outside those stands as well. I guess [my favorite part is] community.”

Levi Coovert answered similarly, saying, “My favorite part is definitely the community it brings. The football games are super fun for us. The practicing is more fun than the actual game, because you get to hang out with people. It is a big commitment, but we all pull each other together. If we have one missing piece, the whole concert could go wrong, so we all have to work together to make it go right. My favorite part is the teamwork element.” Kiguru responded to the question, saying, “My favorite part of marching band is honestly all of it. The pregame show, the stand songs, maybe even the halftime show sometimes. Being in band is like a microcosm of unique personalities (take that as you will). I’ll be honest, memes about band kids are very true, but honestly there’s a sort of unity formed by everyone being some assortment of ‘weird.’ We’re all really united by Mr. Whitson just being really cool and a sort of comaraderie (and also maybe music, I guess). There’s definitely splits in different sections like Brass vs. Woodwinds, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Now for myself, band was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in all honesty. There’s so much room for self growth, but mostly in a community aspect. I’ve made several friends and mutuals and in the end it makes me part of something greater. As a slight music nerd, the playing aspect is quite nice as well of course.”

Band members in the brass and woodwind section practice a song.
Photo courtesy of Casey Whitson

Band obviously requires intense commitment, concentration, and skill; however, band members had varying responses on the level of difficulty required for the program. “It doesn’t take anything,” said Lo, “You can come in with zero experience and still have fun and enjoy the community. I know some freshmen who play piano and draw as a hobby and those two guys are pretty good at drumming. The reason why we do practice is to uphold our front and sound good to represent our school and our pride.”

Whitson responded differently, replying, “A lot of prep. A music degree is the largest degree on any campus aside from maybe a pre-med degree with the amount of credits. I have a passion for it. Playing music is fine, but I like running the program. It is a different thing. Passion and preparation and the ability to wear a lot of hats.”

Coovert said, “It takes the ability to withstand embarrassment and it takes the ability to go out in front of a lot of people who you may know or not know and put on a show for them. The goal is to entertain them.”

Santory highlights the responsibility placed upon band members, stating, “Being a band member takes commitment and responsibility. No one ever wants to be outside at nine o’clock and playing “Hey Baby” for the third time already, but knowing that you have an effect on the entire student section and football team makes the suffering worth it. With that being said, you get handed a ton of music and that means knowing the song, which ultimately leads to a ton of practice. The commitment is a big one, but so worth it. Being a part of the band is such a fun way to connect and be a part of the community.”

Clearly, marching band is an integral part of the Bellarmine musical experience. Football games would not be the same without the crash of symbols, the booming of the bass drum, and the flare of the trumpets. For the Bellarmine marching band, preparation leads to excellence, excellence leads to an unforgettable football game experience, and the program as a whole results in community.

The drum section, filled with a diverse range of grades, practices for upcoming events. Photo courtesy of Casey Whitson