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Evergreen High marching band hitting high notes

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Think of the Evergreen High School marching band as the little engine that could.

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With only 52 members including the color guard — half of them freshmen and only five of them seniors — the band took seventh place in the 3A state championship in Colorado Springs last week. The band competes regularly against bands at least twice its size.

In the six years that Wiley Cruse has been EHS’s instrumental music teacher and marching band director, the Cougar Pride band has made it to the semifinals every year in state competition. When Cruse came to EHS, Evergreen’s band was 23rd out of 24 bands in 3A.

Doing well in the state competition is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in Cruse’s grand scheme for the band: He wants it to march in the Denver Parade of Lights in December 2016 and follow that up with securing an invitation to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in 2017.

There are two challenges with both goals, according to Cruse, though neither is insurmountable: The band and color guard must number at least, 150 though he’s hoping for 200, and then there’s the money it would take to get the group new uniforms and to New York City.

He’s relying on recruiting Evergreen Middle School band members — 44 in the eighth-grade band and nearly that many in the seventh-grade band — along with home-schooled musicians in the coming years to help bolster the band’s numbers.

He’s relying on the band’s booster club to make fund-raising plans to finance his lofty goals.

 

Strong state performance

This year’s marching band performance is called “Life,” and it’s a commentary on different stages of life, with the music developed to represent Earth, sky, fire and water.

The performance uses a 15-foot sign with lightning, a 15-foot-diameter beach ball painted to look like the Earth, and a digital representation of water.

The performance on Oct. 26 during the state competition meant a lot to drum major Sarah Jones, who is a senior. It was her last performance with Cougar Pride.

“On Monday, all of us were incredibly emotional and incredibly focused,” Jones said. “There was a great balance between feeling and focus. Monday’s performance was truly the best show that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Before performances, Jones gives the band a pep talk, and last Monday was her last.

“Giving that last talk to them really, really meant a lot,” Jones said. “It definitely made the fact real to me that I was never going to do this again. “

 

A young squad

While having a lot of freshmen in the band could be seen as a detriment, Cruse sees it as a plus because Cougar Pride is their first experience with marching band.

“It’s been wonderful because the freshmen don’t have any idea what marching band is about,” Cruse said. “They are willing to try new things. I’ve been a band teacher for 24 years. This year, it was really easy to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.”

Since August, the team has practiced two nights and all day Saturdays to prepare for performances at football games and at competitions.

Cruse has five staff members who help the marching band with the performance, color guard, marching drill, percussion and the visual look of the performance.

 

Strong student leadership

Cruse said the year has been easier because the seniors have taken an active leadership role, especially Jones, who is in her second year as drum major.

“This year, student leadership has been really strong and compassionate,” Cruse said. “They look after each other, and they hold each other accountable.”

Cruse called Jones a great leader because of her maturity.

Marching band has several rituals as it enters semifinal competition, because that performance is the last of the season.

During the final run-through, the seniors watch the show. Under normal circumstances, the performers don’t see the show live, only on videotape.

In the hotel in Colorado Springs the night before the last performance, the band members sit in a circle with the seniors in the middle, and the band members talk about memories of the year.

Jones joined Cougar Pride when she was in eighth grade and played clarinet until she was named a drum major her junior year. She called band members her family.

“Middle school kids are scared of high school,” Jones said. “I found my place in band. When I was a freshman, all of the seniors (in band) made me feel really cool because they said ‘hi’ to me in the halls.”

She said marching band is different from high school sports.

“With a small band, every single person becomes so much of a greater percentage of the ensemble,” Jones said. “There is no bench, no time out or switching of players.

“Every member of the ensemble is important to the band at any given time. It gives everyone an immense sense of purpose.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.