Marching Firebirds march their way to excellence

Marching Firebirds march their way to excellence

The Marching Firebirds begin to form the word “Birds” on the football field before a recent football game.

Take 200 musicians and color guard members, two head directors, a plethora of other staff members, countless band parents and volunteers: chaperones, uniform moms, a band booster president, and what do you have? The Fairmont High School Marching Band, the largest extracurricular activity at Fairmont.

The Marching Firebirds have been recognized countless times for excellent performance. They were Grand Champions at competitions in Tipp City and New Bremen. They placed in the finals at the first ever Bands of America Regional Competition at Roush Stadium. They have beeen ranked superior at every competition they have been to so far. “This is all well-deserved,” said Fairmont Marching Band Director Michael Berning. “Everyone in the band has worked very hard, and they all have become very successful.”

For the past 14 years, Berning has made sure the Fairmont Marching Firebirds perform their best each year. Berning also believes that each year he has an outstanding group of musicians. “We have really good new people. It took the freshmen a day or two to adjust, but they do perform well,” said Berning. “I like how everyone is calm, in a sense, and there’s no crazy, out-of-control kids.”

The leader of the band

When it comes to the Marching Band staying strong together, they all tend to agree on who their biggest influence is: Berning. Sophomore alto saxophone player Shannon Brown has strong opinions on this. “Berning really pushes us to do better. He tells us that we need to keep working hard, because we can only get better,” Brown said. “He’s just a really good motivator. He’s very knowledgeable about what he tells us and really wants us to do our best.”

Spencer Boden, sophomore trumpet player, agrees with Brown, but also has a lighter view. “Berning jokes around a lot, and that’s one thing that makes Marching Band so fun,” Boden said.

Preparation and performances

According to band members, students, faculty and the community, Marching Band is fun, and the band members have a good time together. But one factor that many people don’t realize is that being a “Marching Firebird” also takes a lot of hard work, effort and commitment.

Senior trumpet player and section leader Amanda Gouge knows all about the time spent on Marching Band. “We practice extremely hard every season, and we’re a lot more prepared this year than the last two years,” Gouge said. “Each section individually has really stepped it up. We all have worked harder, and we should be competing in really good competitions this year.”

The Marching Firebirds’ 2010 competition show this year is “Angels in the Architecture.” This show is based off of the concert band piece by Frank Ticheli, and it’s a piece that involves a contrast between light and dark; however, since a school in New Jersey focused primarily on this aspect last year when they performed a competition show based on the same music, Fairmont’s band decided to focus on the architecture aspect of the piece this year. At the end of this show, the Marching Firebirds suspend a Color Guard member from one of the three arches which are constantly being moved around the field, literally making the show “Angels in the Architecture.” These arches were built by the band parents and have a metal framework, but are made to look like architectural arches.

Senior Color Guard member Lexi Gump said she has a lot of fun performing this competition show. “ ‘Angels in Architecture’ is very intense compared to the past couple shows. You really have to stay focused and put your all into performing it,” Gump said.

Most weeks the band performs part of the “Angels in the Architecture” either during half time or in full as their post-game show; however, band members learn more music than just what is in their competition show. The fight song, Fairmont Alma Mater, various stand tunes, and cheers are also part of the band’s repertoire. Many people, including spectators and football players believe that the band really adds a lot to the Friday night games.

Frequent spectator sophomore Nicole Hohler enjoys watching them play. “They make the stands go quiet, and they get everyone’s attention. It’s something I go to the games for,” Hohler said.

“The Marching Band really pumps us up,” said senior Varsity Football player Brad Hack. “When we are going through the tunnel before the game, and when the band is out there on the field playing, we really get pumped up. They give us more emotion to play with,” he said.

Worries about the levy

Though many Marching Band students and parents find Marching Band a great family experience, some worry that it could be at risk if the district’s proposed levy fails on Nov. 2.

“If the levy does not pass, there will be no Marching Band,” said the head chaperone of the band Lorie Lamb. “It will not just affect the band members, but it will also affect me. Being in the Marching Band is such a great opportunity. It’s a good way for students to make new friends. If it should go, it’ll be very sad. It will be like a crime.”

Carol Dittoe, president of the Band Boosters, agrees with Lamb. She is yet another parent actively involved in the band and one who will be greatly affected if it should go. “The Marching Band is a very postive thing. My son loves it, and I want him to have the experience and opportunity to stick with it,” she said. “But if Fairmont’s band goes because of the levy not passing, we will have to find another way for him to be involved.”

Although parents are concerned with the levy not passing and the Fairmont Marching Band coming to an end, those involved have taken a lot of positives out of the experience.

“I’m thankful my daughter had this opportunity to learn and work with Berning, make a close group of friends, and most importantly become a leader in the band,” Lamb said. “It kind of mimics life. You have to start from the bottom as a freshman and work your way up. It’s the same for Marching Band.”

Fairmont’s Marching Firebirds come a long way each year. “Being in the marching band is a wonderful family experience,” said Dittoe. “To be watching them is incredible, too.”