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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 14, 2018

‘1,001 Arabian Nights’

MPCHS marching band students return to the field
Jul 31, 2018
Photo by: Grace King MPCHS color guard students practice their routine for the this year’s theme “1001 Arabian Nights.” The show includes a never-before-used saber sword, a challenge for veteran and freshman color guard members alike.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Trombones, clarinets, trumpets and drums gleamed in the sun as they lay seemingly forgotten on the field at Mt. Pleasant Community High School. Marching band students were focused on moving into formation, their noses in their notebooks for the correct spot to stand next.

Band director Jim DePriest shouted directions with the help of a megaphone, instructing students to curve their hands as if their instruments were in front of them as they walked from one position to the next. Behind him, Adam Creager, middle school instrumental music teacher, directed students in the “pit” playing the marimba, vibraphone and xylophone, creating a symphony of background music for the deliberate and focused marchers.

Inside the wrestling room, color guard was learning their own formation, tossing flags, rifles — even saber swords — to the beat of the new routine.

By the time school begins in just a few weeks, marching band, color guard and pit will be working out the kinks of the show — “1,001 Arabian Nights” — the theme for this year’s marching band show.

Students will weave the story of Scheherazade, the last young bride of a Sultan who takes a new wife each night and executes her in the morning after one of his wives’ cheats on him. Cunningly, Scheherazade tells the Sultan a story the first night they are together, but never reveals the ending. For 1,001 nights, Scheherazade spins her tale to save her life, until eventually the Sultan falls in love with her.

It’s definitely not a mainstream theme, said senior trumpet-player Tyler Craig. While some high school bands’ performances tell the story of Harry Potter or Star Wars, DePriest chooses this, with music from Aladdin and Slumdog Millionarie.

Taking a midmorning break Monday, some marching band students fretted about the intensity of the music and steps while agreeing the level of difficulty in the piece speaks volumes about DePriest’s belief in their talent.

“The students are very positive. Our kids are great kids,” DePriest said. “All 196 (students) are here mostly. What do you say about kids who give up their weekend and summers? They’re dedicated.”

Sophomore Christina Carthey, a bass drum player, is stepping onto the field for the first time this year. In the pit last year, she wondered how she would get through carrying a drum while marching.

“I have to learn how to march, count,” Carthey said, in the same breath adding she is excited about the challenge. “I’ll get used to it, but it will take some time,” she said.

Memorizing the music is the most difficult part of any new routine, said Nathan Rauenbuehler, trumpeter. As a senior, Rauenbuehler knows he can’t learn it all at practice, and began studying the music weeks ago.

“The music is challenging,” said sophomore Katie McCormick, on the marimba. That doesn’t scare McCormick, however, who says music is her whole life. “I’m not a part of anything else. I dedicated my whole life to music. It’s what I like to do.”

Craig calls band camp a “preseason of school,” explaining that between the heat and learning a new routine, it can be really draining. Although the band will be performing the routine in its entirety by the end of the week, cleaning up the act and ensuring it’s memorized will come during the school year.

In the wrestling room, Sherry Stone, choreographer, counted the beat aloud with the color guard students. DePriest isn’t the only one upping the ante with this year’s show. Stone is introducing a new prop to color guard this year — a saber sword.

“It’s the whole school’s first year (using a saber),” senior Sadie Carrasco said, emphasizing the difficulty of learning the basics of the saber while also learning a new routine.

Color guard works in a makeshift “big sister/little sister” buddy system. Seniors understand from experience how difficult going from middle school to high school colorguard can be.

“I cried my first day of guard camp,” Carrasco admitted while other senior color guard members nodded their heads, murmuring they all had “that moment.”

Freshman Abby Blint said the difficulty lies in memorizing everything for the first time. “It’s all muscle memory. I just have to get the timing,” she said.

The seniors know it gets easier, with repeating movements incorporated into each year’s routine.

Stone, of Davenport, has been choreographing MPCHS’s color guard for 17 years now. While she only gets to spend a few days at the end of the summer with the color guard students at MPCHS, she appreciates seeing them at competitions throughout the school year. Stone has also taught color guard students in seven states.

“They learn the fastest of any group I teach,” Stone said. “They’re all musicians honestly. They help themselves (learn the choreography). When I teach them different counts, they already understand the measures. It helps a lot.

“They do difficult, more advanced choreography, and they do it well,” Stone added.

Overall, “1,001 Arabian Nights” will have a different feel from last year’s Frankenstein theme. It’s more classical, said MPCHS vocal music teacher Marlene DePriest.

The almost 200-students on the field make it one of the largest marching bands DePriest and Marlene have ever worked with at MPCHS too, presenting a slightly greater challenge on the field.

“But the kids are great,” Marlene said, pointing out how many attend the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. band camp before the school year even begins. “Every year is always going to be a challenge.”

Marching band will perform at the first MPCHS home football game on Friday, Aug. 24. Their “1,001 Arabian Nights” performance will premiere during the Marching Band Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 15.

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