It’s safe to say everyone has heard of Fairmont High School’s Marching Band, Pep Band and Jazz Band that perform at the football and basketball games and compete in national competitions. However, those aren’t the only music groups that are giving exceptional performances and participating at the national level. Although some Fairmont students don’t know much about them, Percussion Ensemble and Winter Guard are also part of the Music Department and perform during the winter and spring months.
Percussion Ensemble is an indoor drum line ensemble consisting of percussion instruments such as bass drums, snares, tenors and cymbals.
Percussion Ensemble is directed by James Sparling and competes in Winter Guard International (WGI) and Mid East Performance Association (MEPA), two globally recognized competitions. Competitors for these two events come to Dayton from countries all over the world such as the Netherlands and Japan.
Percussion Ensemble’s current show, “A Stone’s Throw,” is off to a strong start. So far, they’ve placed first, second or third at all of their shows. They also got first place in the Pre-eliminations at the WGI Regional Competition in Indianapolis.
Senior Andy Smith has been a part of Fairmont’s Percussion Ensemble for all four years of his high school career, and he says the past year has been the group’s best. “Previous seasons have been challenging for us, but since James Sparling, our percussion director, showed up, we have been progressively getting better,” he said.
No one should think that because Percussion Ensemble is a part of the Music Department, it isn’t physically demanding. “I have to admit it is physically and mentally draining activity, but the end reward of winning is well worth all of the hard work,” Smith said.
Senior Samantha O’Neill knows fist hand how physically demanding Percussion Ensemble can be as well. “We have to run to the dots over and over, which can be physically demanding. Plus, I did a barrel roll so many times, I got a huge bruise on my shoulder,” she said.
O’Neill admits she didn’t know a whole lot about Percussion Ensemble before she started her senior year. “I took for granted how hard Percussion Ensemble can be. We have practice from 4 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and competitions on Sundays, so it can be pretty demanding,” she said.
Senior Jennifer Shupe has been participating in Percussion Ensemble since her sophomore year and is very proud of this year’s achievements. “I enjoy Percussion Ensemble very much. I’m proud of us placing first in Prelims at the WGI Regional in Indiana and placing second in finals at the WGI Dayton Regional,” she said.
Winter Guard is another indoor activity, and it’s made up of members of the Marching Firebirds Color Guard. They use flags and other equipment such as rifles and sabers to bring color to the floor. Much like Percussion Ensemble, Winter Guard also competes in the national MEPA competition every year along with competing against other high schools in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Doug Annala and Heather Lamantia direct the team.
Junior Emily Stewart has been participating in Winter Guard since she was a freshman and wants it to get more recognition. “People don’t think Winter Guard is hard because it’s not technically categorized as an sport since we don’t compete in the Greater Western Ohio Conference,” she said. “But we spend so much time cleaning the work and perfecting the show that we work just as hard as athletes in any other school sport.”
Senior Sarah Shepherd has been part of Winter Guard all four years of high school, and she’s happy with the way her senior year is going. “We have a very strong group of girls this season. We’ve improved a lot faster this season compared to previous ones,” she said. “Past seasons have gone OK, but it’s definitely this season that’s the best.”
The girls are proud of this season in particular because they placed fifth out of nine in their first competition on Feb. 13 and third out of seven in their second competition on Feb. 27 against some of the best Winter Guard teams in the tri-state area.
Olivia McKenzie is the only freshman on this year’s team, and she admits it can sometimes be difficult. “It’s very hard work for me. I have to work a lot harder to prove that I deserve being the only one freshman,” she said. “You really have to care enough to work the flag and own it because dropping really lowers your confidence.”
Both Winter Guard and Percussion Ensemble are having great seasons so far. The two teams work very hard, but members of both teams wish more people would come to their shows.
O’Neill is one of those members who would really appreciate more recognition from her peers. “I think we should have an assembly that all the students at Fairmont can come to so we can show off our hard work,” she said.