Thursday, March 4, 2021

BOA Grand Nationals: Forsyth Central, Cumming, Ga.

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INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 14, 2009)—With a show entitled “Gotham: The Inevitable Ecumenopolis?” the Flash of Crimson Marching Band from Forsyth Central High School in Cumming, Ga., takes the field in semi-final competition at the Bands of America Grand National Championships here at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The word “ecumenopolis” was invented in 1967 by Constantinos Doxiadis, a city planner in Greece, to represent the huge metropolitan area that would eventually encompass the entire planet as the world’s population grew. The idea didn’t start with Doxiadis, though, as science fiction writer Isaac Asimov talked about Trantor, a “city-planet,” in some of his novels.

Mikaela Kieffer, a senior and one of the band’s drum majors, said the thematic highlight of the ecumenopolis in Forsyth Central’s show comes in the form of a question at the end: Will the world ever get like that? For me, the musical highlight of the show comes in the middle, as an exquisite mellophone solo brings us to a brighter, major key and we see more accelerated movement from the marchers. Then in the final movement, the band’s trademark, a silver-plated implement on everyone’s instrument, flashes and adds to the brightness.

The band is directed by John Mashburn, Tom Tucker, and Sue Mashburn. Drum majors are Adham Hamilton, Minh Nguyen, and Ms. Kieffer, whose essay, printed below, describes her four years in the Flash of Crimson Marching Band, reflects a little on the Bands of America experience among other high school experiences, and looks to her future. I hope you enjoy it.


Drum Major in the Flash of Crimson

By Mikaela Kieffer

Sitting in this small band uniform room, I see glove and hat boxes, and first aid kits. I see racks and racks full of 200 red jackets adorned with silver buttons and sashes. Then my eyes pick out the three black jackets. These jackets aren’t just different in color. They indicate a unique job as part of the band. Only a select few who go to clinics and auditions hope to wear the special black jacket, and those few hold the band together. I am proud to say I had the honor of being a drum major for the Forsyth Central High School Flash of Crimson Marching Band.

I realize that everything starts in this uniform room. All of the uniform items come from this room; without them, we wouldn’t have a strong effect. As we march onto the field, uniformly dressed, we all look like intimidating soldiers dressed in crimson attire. The impact is powerful.

I started marching band as a freshman, having no knowledge of how to be a marcher or what it meant to be part of something. All I knew was that I played the music and moved around the field. I soon learned that just like an army, there are ranks in band. The bottom rank is known as a sergeant. The next highest is a lieutenant, band captain, and the highest, the drum major. To hold a rank, a week of clinics and a test is required to prove marching skills and abilities. The person scoring the highest becomes the band captain. To be drum major, another week of clinics is required and an audition at the end will either make or break you.

During my freshman year, I aspired to be the drum major but never thought it could happen. I worked my way through the ranks, serving as a loyal marcher my sophomore year and as a sergeant my junior year. All thoughts of being the drum major had relocated themselves to the back of my mind—that is, until the end of my junior year at officer clinics for the next year.

I had many internal debates about whether I should try out for drum major or not. The main reason I didn’t want to was because I wanted to march. I love marching. But on the other hand, I realized that being the drum major would help my life be more rewarding and teach me important leadership skills for my future. I decided to go for it. The clinics were strenuous and a lot of hard work. When the results came in, I never would have imagined that my name would be on that list.

The season was a rough one. Financial troubles and rainy weather haunted the band. Tension built as we practiced countless hours for our two Bands of America competitions. The tension became an obstacle I realized I needed to learn how to handle professionally with my position. I learned how to offer constructive criticism, not just criticize. I helped people and taught many how to march, but at the same time, I was learning how be a better leader and teacher in the process.

The Flash of Crimson Marching Band competed in two nationally acclaimed Bands of America (BOA) competitions this year. In the Atlanta Super Regional held at the Georgia Dome, we placed eighth out of 42 bands in the region. We went on to compete at a higher level: the BOA Grand Nationals are like the Super Bowl. Ninety-one bands competed in preliminary performance. Only 34 were selected for semi-finals; the Flash of Crimson was one of those 34. As it was our first time performing at Grand Nationals, it is an amazing accomplishment. We didn’t make finals, but the feeling that I had marching onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium was like no other.

I have been part of the Flash of Crimson for four years. Every time I marched onto a field, I tried to internalize that feeling so I wouldn’t ever forget it. Football games provided me with a feeling of excitement, but each Friday night was the same.

The day of semi-finals changed that, though. As I marched onto the field for the last time, I felt an incredible feeling—one that I had always hoped to have, but one that I was never able to imagine. I cried. I was sad of course because band had been my life for four years. But the thought that hit me the hardest was that of family and nostalgia. I had a family waiting for me to conduct the performance of a lifetime. This family that I have spent more time with than my biological family is more than just a group of people in red jackets with silver buttons and sashes. They are my friends, people who have known me possibly even better than I know myself.

Marching band is and always will be a part of me. I have so many memories, good and bad, that have helped me to become the person that I am today. I realize, as I sit here in this small room, that I have a tear running down my cheek. It is not a tear of sadness, but a tear of pure joy knowing that I have done something great.

Paul Katulahttps://news.schoolsdo.org
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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