By Barrett Roberson.
The Abilene High School Eagle Band prepares a new marching show for UIL Area marching competition on Oct. 17 at Wylie High School.
The band began working in the beginning of August to prepare their new show.
“This year’s show is called ‘Guarded’ and has many layers to its concept,” assistant band director Alanna Curley said. “It is about us as people and how we are really closed off and guarded as individuals when we first meet people, but as we build human connections and relationships and friendships and things, how we open ourselves up. So, the show starts where the band is really guarded, sometimes very clustered together. We’re going to have these props that they’re going to hide behind and march around and in and out of. By the end of the show, the band is going to be very open, symbolizing human connection and having valuable relationships in your life.”
Senior bass drum player and band president Tate Eller also values the show’s message.
“I’m very excited for this year,” Eller said. “Our show has a lot of potential and packs a powerful message. It talks about how we put up walls in our lives to try and protect ourselves when in reality, we need to tear down those walls and be open to other people.”
Every year, the marching band’s show is different, and every year the band is different. It is important to have a show that fits well with the entire program.
“This show was chosen for a lot of reasons,” Curley said. “First of all, we thought that the theme of valuable relationships and human connection was really relatable. We wanted to challenge ourselves musically and visually, adding new things like props and lots of soloists. We have a lot of talent, so we wanted to feature all that talent. We thought that the students would really enjoy playing things like “Titanium” and “Swirling Prisms”.”
While the show should fit the program, it is also important for the underlying message to be bigger than just one band.
“I think in some ways, this is a good reflection of where we’ve been as a society and a culture lately, because COVID really took the wind out of our sails in a lot of ways,” head director Jonathan Kraemer said. “And I think for a time such as this, we need good music, but we also need to be reminded of where we’ve been and what we have because we take a lot of things for granted. This allows us to visually represent what it’s like to be in connection and community with other people and how important that is.”
With the marching show being a huge part of a band program, the directors exercise careful consideration regarding what type of show to perform during marching season.
“So every year, the directors get together, usually right towards the end of marching season, like November 1 to December, and we start looking at different concepts,” Kraemer said. “We looked at the show for music for one. We really liked the musical selections, but we also look at the strength of our ensemble. We look at the level of difficulty and that kind of thing. We also look at accessibility and cost because shows are kind of big budget items these years. And this is one that we just really settled on. And that process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to be able to land on something.”
While the band’s job during marching season is to be prepared to perform their show, the culture of a program is just as important.
“I think the heart of what we do is grounded in family,” Kraemer said. “We want band to be a welcoming place. And a place where people can feel safe, but also to connect. Obviously, we use music as the common denominator, but at the end of the day, we want people to know that this is a place to belong. We work really hard, and that’s why we’re successful. But at the same time, we also have a whole lot of fun. There’s a place if you’re willing to step up and do what we ask of you then like we’re going to be committed to you for the entire time that you’re a member of our organization.”
The selection of a show that includes recognizable tunes like ‘Titanium’ has been very popular with the band members. ‘Titanium’ is a song written by David Guetta, with vocals by Australian singer Sia.
“Our show is really cool,” junior saxophone soloist Karissa Chapman said. “So far, we’ve learned two movements, and we’re about to add choreography and props. I think it’s really cool that movement two has a song people can recognize.”
Junior clarinet soloist Caleb Irwin serves as a section leader and has a special role in the show.
“I really like ‘Titanium’, that’s a lot of fun,” Irwin said. “I’m very excited because I get to do a solo this year. It’s me and Gabby and Karissa. So it’s fun, having the three of us play together. I’m really excited about that.”
While it isn’t always easy, there is something about band that makes all of its members passionate about what they do.
“Band is awesome, it’s so much fun,” Curley said. “I love the culture of band. People see us a lot on Friday nights and halftime shows, maybe parades and pep rallies. But I would love people to know that band is just an enormous family of super fun awesome people. I feel privileged to be a band director and part of this program.”