How cold was it?
So cold the trumpets went flat. So cold they went looking for electric blankets to cover the xylophones. So cold the colorguard coach wrapped her insulated gloves around her insulated cup of cocoa.
The 146 students in Central Valley High School’s marching band were tuning up - and freezing - Wednesday evening in a crucial practice. It was the last practice before today’s Spokane Lilac Festival Pacific Northwest Marching Band Championship at Albi Stadium. The group is scheduled to perform in the preliminary round at 1:15 p.m.
“Brass players, if you’re not playing, take that mouthpiece and jam it in your pocket,” shouted Kent Meredith, band director.
A line of 15 drummers faced east, well away from the other musicians. Their beat was clear and aggressive, a good reminder of why drummers once accompanied soldiers into battle.
Practice on the CV baseball field ran from 6 to 9 p.m. The cold October wind tore at the color guard’s banners. Meredith urged one horn player in short sleeves to don his jacket.
“It’s crazy. You start (the band season) in 110 degree heat and you finish in 30 degrees,” Meredith said.
The band launched into its first piece of music, Baroque Samba. Warm, clear sound washed over the field. Ugh. The cold had contracted the metal of the band instruments. They were flat.
Meredith roamed the field. Brass players retuned.
Everyone ready? Drum major Erin Johnson started the beat. This run-through was more successful. Next stop, Meredith urged the students to make their music excellent as a matter of habit. “That way you can think about your marching.”
Earlier in the day, the musicians worked through their regular 80-minute class, striving for sharper accents, clearer tones.
“I want to hear one clarinet, not 12,” Meredith said.
Every detail counted. Clarinetist Brian Utecht objected to the way one passage sounded. He demonstrated.
“That’s the way we were taught,” he said.
“It’s not the way we learned it,” said trombonist Rochelle Largent, across the classroom.
Fresh off a grand sweepstakes award last week in Tri-Cities, the students are committed to getting it right.
Back on the field, Meredith gathered the musicians together. The body heat of so many people staved off the wind.
“People, it will be this cold. You’ve got to fight through it,” he said.
“This is the game. It will be cold. And you’ve got to handle it better than anyone else out there.”
One more time, the sound rang out, golden. The choreography flowed. Toes were up, cutoffs were precise. The kids actually looked warm.
It was nearing 9 o’clock.
Meredith ran out on the field, looking over his shoulder at the other instructors.
“We’ve got time for one more through, don’t we?”
“Oh, yeah, easy.”
And off they marched into the cold wind, one more time.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Marching orders The Central Valley, East Valley, University and West Valley high school bands are participating in today’s Spokane Lilac Festival Pacific Northwest Marching Band Championships at Albi Stadium. In preliminary rounds, WV performs at 9:30 a.m., U-Hi performs at 11:30 a.m., EV performs at 1 p.m., CV is on at 1:15 p.m. The finals start at 6 p.m.
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