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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018
Creating a monstrous masterpiece

Marching Panthers put in long hours to create “Frankenstein”

Sep 29, 2017
This year, the Marching Panthers are performing an original show,”Frankenstein”. The show was  written by band director Jim DePriest. This week’s practices were all about working out the kinks in the performance. Above, Jozlyn Lee, junior mellophone player, carries her music and drill book around her neck.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


It’s a cool 54 degrees outside, making it feel as if autumn has truly arrived in Henry County. The first bell has yet to ring at Mt. Pleasant Community High School, but that means little to the members of the marching band. They’ve already been at it for nearly an hour — memorizing the rewrites to their music and trying to tackle a tricky transition in the field show’s second song.

“It’s a lot of fun and hard work,” sophomore trumpet player Levi Mills says as he walks back to his starting point on the field. “There’s a lot of hard notes, it’s complex music.” But that, Mills says, makes the show more interesting.

This year’s field show is titled “Frankenstein” and was written by band director Jim DePriest. DePriest has always arranged the music for the marching band, but this is only the second original show he’s written.

“I love doing it,” he said of writing the music. “There is such a great trust and willingness with these kids to try new things. They’re not scared to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new. That’s what I love about these kids.”

The Marching Panthers get to work long before school starts for the year, having a band camp in the summer. Once classes begin, the students are in the building long before the first bell, practicing at 7:15 every morning during the week. This week, the band was working on one particular song, “To Gaze Upon the Creator”, which is the show’s ballad. “It’s the slow ones that are always hard to play,” said DePriest. “The fast, rhythmic stuff, the kids catch a lot faster.”

DePriest says writing the music, he has a special connection with the piece. “I want to hear certain things and I haven’t heard that yet.” So Wednesday morning, before his students arrived, he was in the music room rewriting a section of the ballad. “Sometimes the only thing to do is to mess with (the show) and experiment with it.”

At 7:15 a.m., the students gathered in circles and began to warm up. Then they moved into formation and began to play, learning the new section of music. By 8 a.m., they were ready to move. “We want your steps to match the music, make it beautiful,” DePriest’s voice booms over the speaker situated on the drum major’s stand.

“What we’re doing musically and visually is to focus the listener and observer so they know where to look and where to listen,” he explains later.

The band runs through 16 bars of music. DePriest calls cut and the kids walk back to the same spots they practiced in this morning. They run through it again. “If your calves aren’t hurting when you come forward, you’re not doing it right,” he says to a section of brass instruments.

“The show is complicated,” said freshman trombone player Jude Beasley. “But if we want a chance of winning we have to work really hard. Plus, the show is really cool and deserves a lot of work.”

Sophomore Piper Wiley agreed. “This show is really interesting. It’s different from any show we’ve ever done or that I’ve ever seen and I think that’s really cool.”

Wiley said things aren’t always serious on the field. “Things aren’t always serious. We like to make light of things, but we like to work hard.”

“These kids are great,” praises DePriest. “It’s so easy with something like this to get frustrated, but they don’t. They understand the process, or at least my process.”

DePriest says he hopes the show people see this weekend is different from what they saw at the Invitational earlier this month. “The show should evolve,” he says. “It’s like any piece of art, it’s a developing project.”

For senior drum major QianQain Ye, each evolution of the show becomes better and better. “I didn’t think I could like anything better than our show last year, but this is better,” she said. “And the fact that Mr. D wrote the music, it takes it to another level.”

This is Ye’s second year being drum major and she said she’s noticed an evolution in her style as well. “This year I’m able to focus more on the different parts of the music.”

She’s also been highly impressed with her peers. “Band teaches you discipline. You have to have discipline to wake up early and be here before school starts,” Ye said. “We work hard every day, every time.”

Becoming drum major has also helped Callie DePriest evolve. “I’m more appreciative of how things work together and come together,” she said. “It’s more than just you and knowing what you need to do.” She said it’s also changed the way she listens to music. And as for spending more time with her parents (Marlene DePriest directs the color guard), Callie enjoys it.

For junior mellophone player Jozlyn Lee, marching band has taught her a lot about pride. “I’ve learned a lot about pride. Pride in my school, the band, myself.”

“As long as I’ve been teaching here, I’ve always been in awe of these kids,” said DePriest. “The number of hours the kids put in is staggering. Their level of dedication is humbling and I feel really honored to be part of that.”

The band will perform on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Cedar Rapids Prairie and the following weekend in Kahoka, Mo., for the Parade of Champions competition.

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