As they loaded the bus in the late morning last month for a three-hour trip to Webb City, Mo., 150-some Olathe East High School students know all their work is about this moment.
A two-day camp in June. A week and a half of band camp later in the summer. Before-school rehearsals. After-school rehearsals. Performing at football games. Weekend parades. It’s all a small pixel of what has gone into the big picture: A whole lot of work to prove they are the best when competing against other similarly driven marching bands around the region.
Welcome to the marching band, circa 2013.
Competitive high school marching bands today are certainly more complex than what they used to be. They not only perform at parades and high school football games, but they also spend hours and hours perfecting their competition/halftime show, a 12-minute themed drill where the band simultaneously marches and plays four numbers with specific music and movements written for each.
Most competitive marching bands, like Olathe East, will compete in an average of three shows throughout October, some local, some regional. This year, the Olathe East Orange and Blue Brigade traveled to Webb City and Lawrence and were scheduled to perform at their final competition Tuesday in St. Joseph.
“The discipline has evolved so much in the last 15 years,” said Jeff Smikahl, head band director at Olathe East. “What kids do now comparative to what kids did 10 years ago is unbelievable, in terms of how hard the drill is, how much movement there is.”
And how competitive it is: These kids want to win.
“It’s more fun than it looks, and it’s a lot harder than it looks,” said Natalie Alton, a senior drum major in the Orange and Blue Brigade. “It’s a lot of time commitment, but most everyone who participates wants to be in it.”