There’s no doubt Friday Night Lights are exciting as far as watching football, but spectators should make sure not to overlook the halftime entertainment, as Calvert County marching bands all experienced success this fall.
Calvert High School recently wrapped up its last competition of the season when it won the school’s first-ever USBands Mid-Atlantic State Championship on Oct. 20 at Towson University.
Director Demetri Bedel, who is in his third season with the band, said he couldn’t be more pleased.
“This is the best season I’ve ever had,” said Bedel, who had 31 band members. “I’m so proud of all the work everyone has put in.”
The band worked hard over the past couple months to win its coveted state championship. The season began over the summer with a pair of week-long band camps. During the school year, the band practices three days a week and performs during Cavaliers’ football games Friday nights, while Saturdays are reserved for competitions.
“I love marching band so much,” said junior Victoria VonNessen, who is in her fourth year as a member of the color guard. “I manage my time with homework during study hall and go to work when I don’t have practice. The band is just a big part of my life.”
The band consists of three sections: Drumline, which is under the assistant direction of Brandon Bryant; color guard, which is under the direction of Casey Garner and Brittney Klauda; and the wind instruments, which are led by Bedel.
The entire band is led by drum major Lurr Ragen.
“As drum major, I conduct the band and I am an assistant to Mr. Bedel,” said Ragen, a senior. “I help the band improve, and boost morale. I’m really proud of all the hard work put into this season.”
The USBands championship is one type of competition marching bands across the nation are able to compete in.
Calvert, which had competed in four previous competitions, went up against seven other bands and earned a score of 86.625 percent. It was the first time in the history of USBands that Calvert has won in states.
“When they announced the score for last place, we were really nervous when they said a 78 percent because we knew the scores were going to be close,” said freshman Zachary Childress, who plays alto sax. “But when we won, it was the best feeling in the world, and we were all so excited.”
Marching band, which accepts students from grades 8 through 12, requires a large time commitment. But the students think of themselves as one big family, and band teaches them lifelong values and the importance of music education.
“The marching band is a dedicated group of students,” said Bedel, who will lose 10 seniors to graduation. “We work to develop both as musicians and people.”
Calvert will perform in the annual Fox Run Christmas Parade on Dec. 2 in Prince Frederick.
Huntingtown experienced plenty of success itself as the Marching Hurricanes won the prestigious Tournament of Bands’ Atlantic Coast Championship title in its Group 2 Open Division on Oct. 27 in Hershey, Pa. They are the first county band to win the award.
The ensemble, which scored a season-best 97.75, also earned accolades for “Best Visual Design” and “Best Music.”
“The band has had an amazing run,” said Director Don Naumann, who took over in 2006-2007 and had 51 band members this season, including nine seniors.
Huntingtown, which competes in the 13-band Chapter 9 Division and has won 11 championships, performed “A Journey of All Seasons” this year, a dedication to Huntingtown chorus teacher Dan Boyer, who died suddenly in February.
“Huntingtown is the underdogs of the TOB world,” said Hurricanes’ Assistant Director Ryan Brown, who was a trumpet player with the Hurricanes from 2007 to 2009. “We have a very small, underfunded band compared to our competition, but we have been able to stay competitive, which shows how committed our staff and kids are. They all work very hard to master this craft. We love doing it.”
Other assistants and band alumni are pit percussion instructor Sean Cleary and drumline instructor Tyler Perkins, and marching staff instructor Chris Del Vecchio.
“I think this program is extremely important, these kids learn life lessons that they just aren’t getting anywhere else,” Brown said. “They work hard, they succeed because of it, and they have an absolute blast doing it. And I couldn’t be more proud of all the kids in this program. They’re amazing.”
Third-year Director Stephen Lane and the Patuxent High marching band placed third in Class 2A at the USBands Class A National Championships on Nov. 4 in Allentown, Pa. The Panthers were also awarded the Caption Award for best visual.
The third-place showing — out of 16 teams — tied for the Panthers’ highest ever after the 2016 band accomplished the feat.
This year, Patuxent had just 31 members, six of whom are seniors.
“We’re a little on the small end,” said Lane, who said he would have liked between 60 and 70 members, “but we had a really great year. We had a young group, but we enjoyed a lot of success.”
Patuxent performed “Opposites” — which was inspired by the idea of ying and yang — this year.
“The highlight of every season for me is watching the students grow from the beginning product to the end product, and watching them grow as people, as musicians and as leaders,” said Lane, who was assisted by a staff of six. “My favorite part of this activity is that each student is intricately involved in the finished product. Unlike an athletic team, we don’t have any bench players. Everyone is a starter and everyone has to contribute in order for the final product to have some success.”
Northern High also experienced some success this season, which culminated in a 14th-place finish in the Class 3A division at the USBands Class A National Championships in Allentown.
“We had a really good year,” said Director Russell Bly, who is in his fourth year. “It was successful. If you go off how we just ranked alone it probably doesn’t look like it, but we had a really successful year. I think that [performance at nationals] was the highlight of the students’ year as far as marching band is concerned.”
Northern, whose halftime performance was “Route 66” after the iconic Chicago to California highway, had 55 students this year, its largest band in some time. The band also featured six eighth-graders.
“The kids showed an interest in doing it and we wanted to give them an opportunity, plus it’s a great way for recruiting because they’re hanging out with high school kids so they’ll go back and spread that around,” Bly said. “We’re hoping that translates into more bodies showing up in the ninth grade. It takes them a little longer but once they see what’s going on they get really into it, and they did a great job for us.”
Other staff members include color guard instructor Ashley Stern, percussion instructor Tim Beall and assistant instructors Grace Larsen, Timmy Fletcher and Zach Wilson.
“It was kind of a growing year for us, but we had some really successful shows and it was very entertaining,” said Bly, who will lose 10 seniors. “We were one of the crowd favorites every time we went out and the people seemed to enjoy it and we got a lot of good feedback. That’s kind of what we like and our goal is to do something entertaining and be successful competitively as well. Overall it was a great experience and I’m hoping we can build off that.”
The writer is part of the Young Journalists Program, a partnership between Calvert County Public Schools and The Calvert Recorder. This article was originally published in the Calvert Recorder on November 14, 2018.
Calvert Recorder staff writer Michael Reid contributed to this story.