Albi hosts ‘Sounds of Thunder’

THURSDAY, OCT. 7, 2010

Members of the Mt. Spokane High School color guard warm up before the 2009 Pacific Northwest Marching Band finals at Joe Albi Stadium.  (FILE)
Members of the Mt. Spokane High School color guard warm up before the 2009 Pacific Northwest Marching Band finals at Joe Albi Stadium. (FILE)

Pacific Northwest Marching Band Competition will take the field Saturday

For kids in the marching band, days like this Saturday are extra special.

After a long trip to Spokane, most likely starting in the predawn hours, they put on their uniforms and warm up their instruments. They practice marching and playing. Then, they line up and march into Joe Albi Stadium, their heads held high and their hearts racing in anticipation. Their band is announced, and they start their show.

The “Sounds of Thunder 2010” Pacific Northwest Marching Band Competition will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. at Joe Albi, 5000 W. Wellesley Ave.

Every year, marching bands from around the state descend on Spokane to show off their new moves, music and pageantry. This year’s competition is international – Magrath High School from Alberta will perform.

Local bands competing include Central Valley, Cheney, East Valley, Mt. Spokane, West Valley and University high schools. They each get about 10 minutes to get on the field, set up instruments such as marimbas, vibraphones, timpani and other percussion, flags and other props, perform their show, pack everything away and get off the field. Each show not only involves the kids in the bands and staff members but also many parent volunteers.

Eight judges will evaluate the bands on their musical and visual performances. The drum lines and the color guards or drill teams will also be judged.

“These kids work hard,” said Mike Koch, president of the board of directors of the Spokane Thunder Drum and Bugle Corps, the sponsor of the event. The competition is one of the drum corps’ fundraising activities, which send its members across the country during the summer to compete against other drum corps.

The bands are also categorized by their size, so small bands with about 30 students won’t be competing directly with bands of 130 students.

Other events may have a preliminary competition in the morning and after a break have only the top bands compete. After a long day of travel and warming up and practicing, it can be very disappointing not to make the finals. At Saturday’s event, every band performs in both performances.

“They all work hard whether they come in last or first place,” explained Rich Harvey, director of Spokane Thunder and another organizer of the event. The bands will also file out onto the field for what is called a retreat after finals. The bands learn who won each division on the field and salute the crowd as their name is announced.

The show isn’t just an opportunity for the bands to strut their stuff. The drum corps has also given away tickets to middle school students so they can see it for free. Koch and Harvey said that many students are enrolled in music programs during their middle school years, but they tend to find other activities instead of music once they get to high school.

“We want to keep them interested from middle school to high school,” Harvey said. “Kids who stay in are better in everything.”

“They don’t have time for dating or drugs (when they are in band),” Koch said.

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