As a light snow fell on Oct. 28, people in the football stands at the U.S. Air Force Academy cheered in anticipation of something they had been waiting for for months.
Below them on the field, however, were not football players.
In cylindrical hats and ornate suits, 85 high school students held flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, mellophones, trombones, baritones and tubas. Other students stood with a variety of drums, xylophones, bells, flags, a keyboard — and even an electric bass.
It was the Colorado Bandmaster’s Association state marching band championships, where the Pride of Littleton — Littleton High School’s band — was competing for the second consecutive year.
After winning their regional competition in mid-October, the band progressed to states, where it won first place in the quarterfinals and placed seventh overall in its division.
“Our season this year was something we felt really good about, we were really able to build on last year and keep the momentum up,” said Eva DeAntoni, a low brass section leader and tuba player in the band.
“Our performance at (semifinals) was the best of our season,” she continued. “Everyone put their hearts on the field and fully committed, there wasn’t anything left undone by the time we walked off.”
The Pride of Littleton competed this season with a show called “Look Closer,” which encouraged the audience to look closer at relationships with each other, nature, technology and the world.
“Our students walked away a little bit with the idea of, ‘Hey, I want to reach out and understand other people better and more,’” said band director Don Emmons. “This show kind of inspired them to do that, and so we were thrilled for that experience with our students.”
The original show, choreographed and mostly composed by the band’s staff design team, included a narration and over 40 different visual shapes on the field. The band members moved together to form eyes, a magnifying glass and the word “LOOK” at different points in the show.
The weather was starting to look like winter on the weekend of the state competition. Emmons said marching band performances continue almost regardless of the weather, and the students did a great job working through the cold.
He said it was so windy during the quarterfinal performance that 27 band parents came down to the field to hold the props down so they wouldn’t blow away.
“But it came off beautifully,” Emmons said. “Everyone, together, made that performance happen really, really well. We were very excited for that.”
Other state competitors from the area included marching bands from Heritage High School, Englewood High School, Columbine High School, Chatfield High School and Dakota Ridge High School.
The band’s pride
Participating in the marching band is both an academic and extracurricular activity for the members, as they rehearse during a band class period, after school and sometimes on weekends.
Over the course of the season, Emmons said he was proud of seeing the students’ growth.
“I am most proud of seeing where the students start and the progress they make to where they finish,” he said. “The growth is enormous.”
He said it’s special to see how students who have never participated in marching band before learn a whole new activity and excel in it.
In addition, Emmons said it’s meaningful to watch students develop as leaders in the band. He said over a dozen students have specific leadership responsibilities.
“To watch them develop as student leaders is also significant because that’s going to carry them on way beyond high school and for the rest of their life,” he said.
For Brittagne Harris, a drum major and clarinet section leader, one of the best parts of being in the band is being able to create something powerful for other people.
“Seeing and hearing audience response is amazing, and really touching people’s emotions is a rare experience we get to have,” she said.
While many activities involve teamwork, marching band is one that truly needs it.
“This is an activity that you cannot do by yourself — you are completely reliant upon 84 other people doing this with you to produce the type of show that you’re producing,” Emmons said. “It’s a unique experience because it requires individual discipline, yet it requires probably the highest level of teamwork that I’m aware of that the high school has to offer.”
DeAntoni said the activity is hard work, but the community makes it worth it.
“The time spent with people at those long, eight-hour rehearsals is always a little grueling, but getting to spend that time with some of my best friends doing what we love is always a blast,” she said. “The people really make it what it is — which is a home for everyone. There’s no bench in band, everyone is on the field and equally as critical.”
In addition to their field show competitions, the Pride of Littleton performs at Western Welcome Week and football games.
On Dec. 2, they will perform in the 9NEWS Parade of Lights in downtown Denver.