October 6, 2011 in Washington Voices

Patriotic event honors 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks

By The Spokesman-Review

The drum corps of the Mt. Spokane High School marching band runs through a patriotic program during practice on Sept. 20 at the school.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

If you go
The Sounds of Thunder, 2011 Pacific Northwest Marching Band Championships

When/where: Saturday at Joe Albi Stadium, 5000 W. Wellesley Ave. Gates open at 10 a.m. Preliminary competition at 11 a.m.; finals at 4 p.m.

Participants: West Valley, University, East Valley, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Cheney, Mt. Spokane, Central Valley and Mead high schools.

Tickets: $12.50 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and free for children 6 and younger. The event is a fundraiser for the Spokane Thunder Drum and Bugle Corps.

• On the Web: visit www.spokanethunder.org.

The music floated across the football field at Mt. Spokane High School, echoed over the baseball diamond and soared across the tennis courts. Under a sunny September sky, the award-winning Mt. Spokane High School marching band worked hard to perfect their performance.

As the haunting sound of taps lingered in the air, it quickly became apparent that football fans weren’t going to be hearing “Louie Louie” from this group when the band plays the halftime shows at Joe Albi Stadium.

Under the direction of James Layman, the group has chosen to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by performing “The American Journey: The Flag Was Still Standing.” The music is a mixture of traditional favorites and new compositions. “We’re the only marching band in the city that chose a patriotic theme this year,” said Layman.

Those who think marching band is for wimps would do well to watch a practice. Senior Amanda Strong took a break to drink water and rehydrate. “This is very physical,” she said. “We actually get (physical education) credits for this.”

Trumpet player Megan Nickleson agreed. “Oh my gosh, what a workout!”

Nickleson, a freshman, had originally planned to run cross-country, but friends persuaded her to give marching band a try. “It’s a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s not just memorizing music and moves, it’s being aware of where you are and where everyone else is.”

Strong nodded. “It takes a lot of concentration.”

Kramer Erb described the precision it takes to know when, where and which direction to move. “It’s kind of like Battleship.”

For Erb and other members, the most enjoyable aspect of being part of marching band is the community they’ve found. “They’re really welcoming,” he said.

He enjoys getting to know kids in other grades. “In high school, you pretty much only know people in your own class, but with this you get to hang out with all the grades.”

Nickleson added, “It’s not like concert band where you sit in a seat next to the same people. You actually get to know each other and spend time together.”

And the shared love of music adds to the camaraderie.

“It’s changed how I see music,” Strong said.

Indeed, marching band is all about combining the rhythm and passion of melody with precise movement and pageantry.

As Layman directed the practice, he sounded equal parts conductor and drill sergeant. From footwork to flat notes, he must keep track of it all.

Mt. Spokane instrumental music teacher Scott Jones watched the practice and said of Layman, “James loves this. This is his favorite activity in life!”

After a short break, Layman gathered his musicians to play the final 15 seconds of their show. As the stirring strains of “America the Beautiful” rang out across the fields, band member Bradley Warren, 17, said, “I had family watch the plane hit the Pentagon, so this show is very emotional for me.”

Jones said encapsulating emotion and school pride are the hallmarks of marching band. “This is esprit de corps – the pride in everything we do – that’s right here!”

From her perch in the front of the field, drum major Michaela McDonald echoed those sentiments. She said, “It’s all about putting your heart into it.”

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