Marching band a daunting, intense endeavor

CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/JOHN JAQUES Pueblo City Schools drum majors (left to right) Alexandra Miller (South), Lani Martinez (East), Marisa Jaramillo (Central) and Julia Barela (Centennial) at Dutch Clark Stadium Friday. Marching band is rigorous and complex, the ladies say.

Physically, mentally and often emotionally, it’s a rigorous undertaking that demands talent, dedication, precision and heart.

To arrive at the end result, a seven- to nine-minute routine, members commit to month after month of rehearsals and class time, starting in the dreadful heat of summer and continuing through the school year.

High school marching band musicians may not receive the accolades and attention bestowed on their athletic counterparts, but they maintain that their chosen activity is, in essence, a "musical sport" — a challenging activity in which a precise show developed over endless repetition, rather than victory, is the goal.

"Marching band is a lot more than just playing a song out on a football field," said Centennial senior Julia Barela, a drum major. "It’s more intensive than that, more complicated. A lot more work goes in, more money, more hours of manpower.

"Blood, sweat and tears from high school kids putting together all their efforts to put on a seven-minute show for judges who won’t even think twice about it."

This year, marching bands from two Pueblo City Schools (D60) have earned the right to show their stuff at the next level.

By virtue of a strong finish at a regional competition, the South and Centennial high school marching bands have advanced to the Class 3A Colorado Bandmasters Association State Championships, to be staged Oct. 30 in Parker’s Echo Park Automotive Stadium.

COURTESY PHOTO The Centennial High School marching band performed in March in the Festival of Fantasy Parade at Disney World in Florida in one example of the rewards of members’ dedication to the ‘musical sport.’

In just its second year of competitive marching after a long lull, the Centennial band again qualified for state, which Barela said is no coincidence.

"The band has very little money, but Centennial has a lot of heart," she said. "It’s a school with a lot of tradition, pride and understanding of what it takes to be a Bulldog.

"And that is reflected in our marching band."

Along with Barela, head drum majors Alexandra Miller (South) and Lani Martinez-Fear (East), and Central’s marching band co-captain Marissa Jaramillo, visited with The Pueblo Chieftain to share their passion for this often misunderstood enterprise.

"Marching band is way more physically and mentally exerting than just playing an instrument," said Jaramillo, a junior. "I don’t think people realize all the hard work that goes into it."

Martinez-Fear, also a junior, said it’s the intricacies and interplay, always challenging and difficult to master, that ultimately define a well-honed marching unit.

"There’s a lot to focus on in marching band beside the music," she said. "You have to focus on the dynamics and the music, the articulation and the music.

"You have to listen to people around you, but you also have to pay attention to your body carriage, your feet and how you’re fitting in the form."

Added Jaramillo, "On a scale of difficulty? Some days it’s a 1 and some days it’s a 10."

In addition to allowing them to exercise their love of music and performance, the four young women said marching band inspires a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that extends into the familial realm.

"It’s a lot of work and it takes so much time to get it together," Miller said. "But everybody does it because it’s a family. We put it together as a family.

"You build these incredible relationships with the people around you and the people above you. And personally, it’s grown me into an incredibly strong leader with so many life skills."

Marching band, Martinez-Fear continued, "will always be my safe place. They are my family, essentially."

It’s a sentiment that extends all the way to the top.

"I love so many things about marching band, but one of the most amazing things is the community aspect it creates," said Josh Mueller, Centennial’s marching band director. "Parents and families are involved in so many ways, from creating props to moving equipment and feeding more than 100 students at competitions and events."

And like any labor of love, in the end the emphasis is always on the latter.

"I think I love it because everyone else loves it so much," Barela said. "Everyone is so wonderful and passionate, beautiful people you get to spend hours and hours with every day."

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