Bands march for the fun of it Contest: Tuba or not tuba? The answer to that question, and some stirring music, was found at the State Band Championships yesterday in Towson.

October 25, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

With trumpets and tubas, drums and drum majors, students played into the night at Towson University yesterday -- no mere football halftime show, but the whole show.

Hundreds of young musicians in marching bands from 45 Maryland high schools filled Minnegan Stadium with color and sound for the 12th annual Maryland State Band Championships, in a musical quest for trophies and recognition they might not get at their schools.

Before an estimated crowd of 8,000, the bands formed and reformed in choreographed patterns, becoming circles and squares and rectangles. Gold helmets with white plumes flashed in the sunlight, color guards tossed red and gold flags into the air, and percussion blended with piccolos and trumpets.

In high school, glory usually goes to the football players. But many of the students competing yesterday said glory wasn't their goal. They said they joined the bands for friendship, social life, fun and, for section leaders or drum majors, opportunities to show leadership skills.

"We're not trying to impress anyone," said Pat Cox, 14, of Bel Alton, a sophomore trumpet player at Charles County's McDonough High School.

Some schools stage tryouts for marching bands. Others allow any student to participate. Players commit to as much as two weeks of eight-hour days at summer band camp; practice sessions lasting two to three hours, three days a week, after school; and playing at football games and band tournaments on autumn Saturdays.

Students say they aren't appreciated by nonband peers. "If we bring it up and put it in their faces, we'll get recognition," said Kelly Ecker, 17, of Woodbine, a drum major and senior with the Cavalier Marching Band of South Carroll High School.

"I have fun being in between the students and the staff, and having people look up to you," said Kelly, whose group won first place yesterday in the division for bands with 36 to 55 musicians.

"What motivates these kids is wanting to be great," said George Smith, director of the South Carroll band, which has 46 musicians and 11 color guard marchers. "I don't think any of them is doing this because of any other reward. Usually, it's a social thing. I think this year it's evolved from a social atmosphere to the will and desire to be awesome."

Carol Stevens and her friend Pam Maldeis gave themselves a challenge beyond the desire to see their Liberty High School Lions bring home a state championship trophy. Carol and Pam, both 16, flutists and juniors at the Eldersburg school, play tuba in the marching band.

Unusual? Absolutely, they said -- noting that they took up the instrument after being told that girls can't play it. "They said we'd blow away," Carol said.

The students signed up for tuba lessons after band director Bryan Eber asked for volunteers to cover a shortage. They not only learned the bulky instrument -- they didn't blow away.

But their division, for 56 to 80 musicians, was won by Western Maryland's Allegany High.

Pub Date: 10/25/98

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