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“Crestwood has a well-known, successful and recognized marching band in the 11th Congressional District and the Congressman was thrilled that they applied and were ultimately successful in marching in the parade,” remarks Murtaugh.
Organizing that many students across such a large age range, let alone teaching them how to play an instrument and march in perfect unison, may seem somewhat daunting, but Ziegler says that all the hard work is very worth it when the students perform, especially on the national stage as they did last month.
“The process is long and very time consuming. You not only have to organize the band on a performance end, but you have to coordinate with numerous people and make sure everyone is on the same page. But the end result, having the students experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, is always worth it. It is a proud feeling watching the students perform,” comments Ziegler.
“The parade…was a huge honor,” says senior and drum major, Kayla Schwartz .“To be with so many people who have served our country, and have a role in something so much larger than ourselves is a feeling that most of the students here have never experienced before.”
“Marching in DC was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” agrees Gamble. “Seeing all the people when we turned on Constitution Avenue was incredible [and an] honor. We worked extremely hard on everything. To be marching with so many veterans in our country’s capital was an experience I will never forget.”
There is another source of pride, however, and Ziegler says that it is how the students conduct themselves and support each other even when they are not marching, especially when one considers the age range and different levels of skill and experience of each student.
Ziegler notes, “The student interaction is great! No matter what age or grade, you have each member of the band looking out for one another. During any type of social activity, the students make sure to include everyone.”
Part of that bonding experience may come from the sheer amount of time that the students spend together while preparing for their events. The commitment level for marching band is on a level surpassed by few sports and activities. Band camps run twice each year, all day long for one week in late June or early July and another week in August. Once school begins, rehearsals are every day after school, sometimes until dark, and competitions can run all day on a Saturday. Students also perform at every home game and in various community parades throughout the year. The biggest challenge, Ziegler says, that he sees students face is finding the time necessary to juggle rehearsal, academics, other sports or activities and, for many older students, employment.
Ziegler points out, “Between the hours of rehearsing together, to the hours of at home practice, it is a very demanding schedule for a student. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and self-discipline to do an activity like this. They really have to learn how to manage everything and sometimes this can become a little overwhelming for them.”
Such a huge time commitment brings many rewards. For example, the very ability to manage time, along with achieving self-discipline, and to work well with others.
“We are not only teaching music, we are also developing young minds to grow into well-rounded adults,” comments Ziegler.
The students begin work in June to compete in the Cavalcade of Bands circuit, which hosts bands from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia. Bands are grouped into divisions by size, and the Crestwood Comets placed in the top three of their division in all three of their competitions, and took 6th place at the Calvalcade of Bands Championships in November. They have a full slate of appearances and competitions lined up already for next season, and will begin the process at the first band camp early next month.
The process may run season to season, however since marching and concert band are both open to students in grades 7 through 12, Ziegler has an opportunity to really get to know his students and see the changes that inevitably occur in a student who remains involved over such a long period of time. He says the biggest change he sees is in the increase in a student’s confidence, both with their ability to play their instrument and their ability to fit in socially.
While Ziegler’s main job is the growth of the student as musician, part of that social growth he speaks of is attributed that “ownership” the upperclassmen take. Enter the drum major. The drum majors, this year Schwartz and Gamble, are the student role models of the group. They help with any problems, lend a hand whenever they are needed and give advice and support to underclassmen.
“[Students] need upperclassmen that have a good sense of self,” explains Schwartz. “The better the role models for the kids in band, the better the transition is for them to move up to the secondary campus. The underclassmen feel more at ease knowing they have friends they can run to if they need them.”
Those experiences in helping the younger students grow creates a sense of growth in the older students as well –as mentors and teachers –as well as a unique bonding experience.
“I leave here with so many friends, and a second family at the school,” recalls Schwartz. “The past six years have been the best of my life…I have never worked with more unique, intellectual individuals [as the class of 2014]. Each of them has such a spirit that makes the band a family, and I do not think I will ever be able to form such strong bonds with classmates as I have here.”
“He [The Congressman] really enjoyed meeting them,” says Murtaugh. “These students spend years learning how to play these instruments and it is nice for them to be recognized.”
And, as this year’s senior musicians graduate with such a lasting memory such as the Memorial Day Parade and a Congressman’s visit, the younger students are looking forward to 2015 and beyond.