Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Avon band learns about oil & a few other things


INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 14) — This is the ninth of a series of 35 stories about high school marching bands that performed at the Bands of America Grand National Championships on Thursday through Saturday, November 12–14, 2015.

Avon High School, from the suburbs west of Indianapolis, brings a marching band to a finals round performance at the Bands of America Grand National Championships. The band is directed by Jay Webb and led on the field by drum majors Dylan Acord, Hannah Wolfinbarger, Amber Greaney, Jonathan Ball, and Jessica Salter.

In a performance that earned second place here, the band’s tuba section included senior Michael Kerner, and sitting in the stands you may not have noticed him. We therefore wanted to provide the video above and a note about this student who, when he was born, suffered permanent brain damage as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome and underwent surgery earlier this year to repair a heart defect. Within a week of being cleared by his doctors to lift his body weight, he was back on the field, doing his part.

The show was entitled “Black Gold,” which represents both the school’s colors and the fossil fuel. It was widely reported that the US and 194 other nations signed an agreement on December 12 in Paris that at least one leading economist has called “the best climate news we’ve had in a very long time.”

The agreement’s future is uncertain: its force could dissipate as nations try to pass laws to bring about many of the changes it puts forth. But what is certain is that Earth’s climate is changing and that these changes are caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, secondary to the burning of fossil fuel, in our recent past.

Renewable energy isn’t some plot to make oil companies lose money; rather it’s a strategy for solving problems, such as drought, stronger hurricanes, or destruction of the environment from warming average global temperatures and catastrophic events, like oil spills.

Today costs of solar and wind power have fallen so much that using renewable energy is cost-competitive with fossil fuels, and jobs in the alternative energy industry outnumber those in the coal industry by a significant margin.

We are extremely pleased to present below, an essay about the marching band at this high school, where so many students in suburban Indianapolis have found a place, a home, and a family. It was written by Emma Shafer, a senior at the high school, at our request. Just as politicians and business leaders may not have noticed the natural beauty of oil, schools may not be aware of the learning students receive from participation in high-quality marching bands like Avon’s. Ms Shafer explains:

SOME PEOPLE MAY DEFINE a marching band as an ensemble of musicians that march in time to music for entertainment at events and in parades, often with brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments, drum majors and majorettes, and color guard. This, however, is not the way a student in a marching band would define it.

Marching band is more than walking to the beat, playing your music, and spinning your flag, rifle, or saber in time together; marching band has many emotions connected to it. Spending 14 hours a week for seven months out of the year for four years means true dedication.

Avon High School performs at Grand Nationals, Nov. 12, 2015 (Voxitatis)

Four years ago I walked into the Avon High School band room for the first time. I thought that this color guard thing was going to be a simple hobby that would look nice on my college résumé. Little did I know this activity was soon going to mean so much more to me. Color guard is something that I have been able to pour my feelings into and from which I have learned many valuable lessons:

  1. Life will not always be easy. You sprain your ankle, you’re an alternate, or you have family issues and problems arise. You have to choose to keep fighting or be crushed by the pressure. Marching band teaches perseverance.
  2. Time management is important. Three hours of practice three out of five days with Saturdays taken up by competition and practice means you find all the time possible to manage an honors student workload and turn homework in on time.
  3. Do what is asked of you, whether this be learn your scales, double fast on rifle, or paradiddles. Knowing that you achieved what you needed to achieve in order to make the whole group better will only lead to your satisfaction.
  4. Lead and be led. You cannot always be the one to lead and give orders, but you can always lead by example by showing your actions and doing what is right—even when no one is watching.
  5. Always give your best effort. Whether it’s a 12-hour practice in July, an invitational performance, or your final performance, your efforts are seen and will be rewarded.

I’ve also been incredibly blessed by dedicated adults who aren’t paid a dime yet pour so much of their heart and soul into us students: volunteer prop designers and builders; the flag- and props-sewing moms; nurses who give up days at a time to be at practices, competitions, and even band camp; box parents who make sure we have what we need to look our best on the field; fundraising chairs who help make fees easier for all parents. And who could ever forget the ones who make sure we’re fed and get treats? I think a group of volunteer marching band parents could take on just about any challenge and solve the problem with lots of creativity and not very much money.

One of the most memorable examples of this was right after Hurricane Sandy hit and several East Coast schools were damaged or wiped out before Bands of America Grand Nationals. Our school got to host Bridgewater-Raritan marching band with a hot dinner and special treat sacks, and then we watched their practice and cheered for them. BOA allowed several of our students to collect money for their school at BOA competitions. It was a great example of the love, respect, and camaraderie not only in our marching band and Fine Arts Department, but in the marching band community as a whole.

Sometimes as teenagers we might seem like the world revolves around us, and we might even act like that after especially grueling practices. But by the examples we are given and the skills we learn in working with each other to accomplish and conquer challenging shows, we learn the value of working together not only to give our best on the field, but also to give our best in the classroom and, more importantly, to the world.

Four years go by at the speed of light. Looking back through the years, I would say the moments that stick out the most are when we were learning about our show theme, costuming, and props. This year, excitement buzzed but confusion was there too. How in the world was there going to be a nine and a half-minute show about oil that kept the audience captivated?

Something we learned during this season was that oil is one thing that is often overlooked: you don’t think about oil until something goes bad, like a major oil spill polluting the area, but oil is always present and needed to keep the world running smoothly.

What we showed in our show was the mysteries of oil. The darker side of oil is shown from the beginning until the end of the ballad when the band is covered with an oil spill. During the ballad, silks that match the colors of the color guard uniforms show the beauty in oil and the delicate ways that it moves. But they also show how you only see this when disaster strikes and the oil spreads. Moving through the fast-paced closer, the golden silks start appearing, and the golden fabrics attached the derricks show the richness and beauty of oil.

Voxitatis is grateful to the Music For All organization, particularly to Eric Martin, president and CEO, and to Kathryn Reinhardt, marketing coordinator, for their assistance in developing this series of stories and for their hospitality while we were in Indianapolis covering what is, by far, the largest high school marching band event in the US.

Paul Katula
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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