May 9, 2013 in Washington Voices

School bands gear up for Junior Lilac Parade

By The Spokesman-Review

Neighbors of Sacajawea Middle School on the South Hill have undoubtedly noticed that the school’s band is in full practice mode, marching through the neighborhood in the early morning hours.

Sacajawea’s band is getting ready to participate in the Junior Lilac Parade downtown on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. This is the 62nd parade hosted by the Rotaract Club of Spokane; more than 80 elementary and middle school marching bands, drill teams, community groups and sports mascots will participate this year.

Patrick Shamblin, director of bands at Sacajawea, said there are 174 students in the marching band this year, and a 40-member drill team.

“We are about a block and a half long when we all get going,” Shamblin said.

He added that this year the band is playing jazz, and it’s been interesting to teach jazz idioms to the band.

“Sometimes jazz is off the beat, and marching is decidedly on the beat,” Shamblin said. “It’s been some work, but it’s been fun work.”

Sacajawea has a strong tradition of participating in the Junior Lilac Parade.

“We go every year as best we can,” Shamblin said, joking that he’s not old enough to have been around for all the Junior Lilac Parades. “There are not many junior parades around anymore, so we are really happy for the opportunity.”

East Valley Middle School’s band is also marching this year. Riley Turner, 13, and a seventh-grader at East Valley Middle School, is in the Junior Lilac Parade for the first time.

“I’m not really that nervous – we marched in the Otis Parade over the weekend,” said Riley, who plays the clarinet. “We play the theme from the NFL on Fox TV, and we play it over and over again.”

Turner said it is a little difficult to walk and play an instrument at the same time, but the band has practiced a lot.

His bandmate Katie Shiflett, 13, just picked up the tenor saxophone a few months ago.

She said the most difficult part about marching is carrying her large, heavy instrument and walking straight at the same time.

“The tenor sax is really big,” Katie said, adding that it feels like it weighs 25 pounds. “I used to play the flute so this is very different.”

She’s looking forward to marching in the Junior Lilac Parade so people can see how good the band is.

“I look forward just to being able to show off to everybody how much we have practiced and how good we have become,” she said.

The eighth-grade band from Greenacres Middle School counts about 40 members, including Michael Fonteyne, 14, who’s marching in the Junior Lilac Parade for the third time.

“I’d have to say that the music is my favorite part of the parade,” Michael said. “This year we are playing, ‘Your Momma Don’t Dance,’ it’s really cool.”

Michael said he practices playing the alto saxophone pretty much every day.

What’s the trickiest part of marching?

“It’s hard to stay on beat and walk at the same time,” he said. “If you shake too much, the sound comes out weird, so you have to walk very smoothly.”

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