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Washington Voices

Unflagging success

Central Valley High School’s marching band and color guard has a reputation for winning. The Bears added to their trophy case last weekend in Eugene, Ore.

CV participated in the University of Oregon Festival of Bands. There were 22 bands from Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Central Valley took first with a score of 90.7, as well as the high visual award and high general effect.

Led by drum majors Mattie Stewart and Salina Johnson, the team won after months of planning and designing along with hundreds of hours of practice. CV has won six of its last seven competitions going back to last year.

The idea for this year’s show, “Machine,” came to band director Eric Parker and his staff after wanting to incorporate electronic sound effects in the show. They also wanted to showcase the talents of a student, Cassi Bennett, who auditioned for color guard captain.

“They have to be able to choreograph their own routine,” Parker said of the audition process. Bennett has a background in hip-hop dance and pop and lock. The staff decided to design a show around those moves.

CV did this last year during their “Criminal” show, in which they had a gymnast who worked her way through red ribbons which represented laser trip wires and a sprinter who ran diagonally from one end of the field to the other in a matter of seconds.

What emerged this year was a story of factory workers and cogs complete with 12 smokestacks on the field which belch smoke – well, carbon dioxide and fire extinguisher – across the field.

“They explode,” Parker said. “And the crowd goes crazy.”

Another student highlighted in the show is flute player Tanner Walker, who plays a solo in the show with guitar sound effects mixed in.

Parker said bending and manipulating sound was just as much part of their show as looking like a factory.

The music was composed by Lewis Norfleet from Camas, Wash., who crafted the piece for the the band’s numbers and expertise. Running a successful marching band that consists of 72 horn players, 21 drummers and 23 color guard members also takes a lot of help. There are six designers and eight staff members to help Parker with the show.

Along with the staff, there is a large cadre of parents. Parker said they do everything else so he only has to worry about being the band director.

This is Lori Wilson’s seventh year in the band’s boosters. She began when her daughter was a freshman at CV and students now call her “Mommy Wilson.”

She said the booster club raises around $60,000 annually for all band programs at the school, not only marching band.

“That is what we spend most of our money on,” she conceded.

Every parent with a student in the band is a booster member, and she estimated there are 60 to 80 active members who can work fundraisers throughout the year or chaperone trips to competitions.

Chaperones do anything from helping to move percussion equipment on and off the field for performances, being a shoulder to cry on or cook and coordinate meals. Students in the CV band don’t eat at fast-food restaurants on their trips, the parents cook and serve the meals.

During their trip to Eugene last week, one meal included ham and scalloped potatoes, beans, corn and rolls.

“This is just kind of what we do,” Wilson said. She said it is healthier for the students and a little more cost effective than taking them all out for burgers.

Wilson said the parents all work very hard for the program, but it is worth it.

“The payoff with this group far outweighs the work that we do,” she said. A camaraderie between parents and students grows out of the program, and the students create friendships that will last them at least through high school. She compared marching band to being in a family.

Anita Slate has been in the boosters for the last five or six years. She works as the publicity chairwoman, even though her child has already graduated from the school.

“We just love the program,” she said.

Last weekend’s performance in Eugene was special to Parker. After the win, Parker wrote in an email to CV staff, “The best moment of the night as the students sat in the stands listening to scores was the look of bewilderment on every Bear as they were crowned champions – 33 years of this competition, and an Eastern Washington band has never won it.

“They had no expectations – just an opportunity. Our kids didn’t pump their fist, scream or anything but smile and put their arms around the shoulder of their neighbor. The audience of thousands of high school band and color guard students stood up and gave our kids a standing ovation for their class and humility in the win.”

They have an opportunity to repeat their win today in Hillsboro, Ore., as they compete in the Northwest Association of Performing Arts Marching Band Championship.

“I’m just impressed with the students’ willingness to put their own needs and interests aside for the good of the group,” Parker said.

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