Friday, May 7, 2021

Circus visions dance in the dreams at Miamisburg


INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 14) — This is the 10th 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.

Miamisburg High School, from south of Dayton on the way to Cincinnati, brings a marching band to a semifinal performance, the first in the school’s history, at the Bands of America Grand National Championships. The band is directed by Steve Aylward and Ryan Wintersheimer and led on the field by drum majors Kelly Groven, Erica Bell, and Trey Lutz. The show, entitled “Circus Dreams,” features music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Bedrich Smetana, and Rob Deemer.

Casey Reazin is a senior at the high school and plays one of four snare drums in the drumline. He started with the band when he was still in eighth grade.

“This year was very memorable, unforgettable, with us making semifinals,” he said, “and how we progressed throughout the season, from my perspective of being in the band the last five years. We’ve grown so much as a band that making the semifinals was just a great way to cap off my year and a pretty great ending to my marching season.”

He described the show, quite accurately, as being about all the things you might see at a circus or that are associated with a circus.

The Miamisburg Marching Band performs at Grand Nationals, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 (Voxitatis)

The pre-show, he explained, shows a girl whose mother sends her to bed early, only to have her transport herself, in her dreams, to the circus.

The opener features clowns with rubber noses, the second movement has trapeze artists and tight rope walkers moving about, and the closer, after a spectacular percussion feature (of course) and a woodwind diversion, brings in lions and other animals in a grand finale.

We are extremely pleased to present below, an essay describing several highlights from this championship season at Miamisburg. It was written by Ms Bell at our request, and we join our voices with those of many other fans who couldn’t help but smile during Miamisburg’s final competitive performance this season in their semifinal run at Grand Nationals.

As a fifth-year senior member of the Miamisburg High School Marching Band from Miamisburg, Ohio, and as one of three drum majors for the 195-member ensemble, I got to experience our record-breaking season with our record-breaking show, “Circus Dreams,” from a special perspective.

I HAD THE PRIVILEGE of leading the band from the podium and therefore of watching our fun and energetic program evolve into something truly unforgettable and unseen by our school’s band program. The 2015 season presented our band with a large combination of opportunities, challenges, successes, failures, learning experiences, and persevering moments, all of which complemented, overlapped, and intertwined together in order to produce an incredibly climactic story of an underdog band crashing through barriers that, for so long, kept them from achieving all that they wanted to achieve.

As a drum major, I got to watch my beloved band and guard members, all from so many different walks of life and so many different ability levels, dedicate themselves completely to creating a wonderful work of art, one full of clown noses, red and white stripes, trapeze ladders, red balloons, circus melodies, and bright yellow tutus. And even though the road to Grand Nationals was filled with amazing successes for our band, we still had no idea what the outcome would be after prelims. We weren’t focused on making semis—something our band program has never achieved—although we definitely hoped we would. And we weren’t focused on the overwhelming competition we faced from so many incredible bands.

All we were focused on, in that still, quiet moment, in those magical seconds before taking that beautiful blue and white field, was each other—and the job we had before us: to give this one performance our absolute everything. We wanted to leave that field with no regrets, and we wanted to leave knowing that we did everything we could have done to earn one more run of a show we had come to love so deeply. It was this mentality, the desire for one more performance, that drove our band all season long. And it was this mentality that allowed us to share some preciously special moments together as a band family, moments that I will never forget, and moments I, along with everyone from our community involved in our record-breaking season, will carry in the pockets of their hearts for lifetimes to come.


My favorite thing about this season has come to be the deep connections and powerful memories I have made with my band, connections and memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Anyone involved in marching band can testify to the fact that there are certain traditions, inside jokes, and sayings within a band that make the experience all the more special and memorable, all the more emotional to let go of when it all ends in Indianapolis.

This year, as band members, guard members, and staff members alike came together to support each other, encourage one another, and push one another farther and farther away from our comfort zone, special moments of inexhaustible joy and togetherness were formed. Some were small, like the moments as a drum major where I would see a struggling band member finally get that challenging direction change, or where I would wipe the eyes of a frustrated band member, encouraging them to keep going, while they, in return, inspired me to work even harder myself, or just watching the shyest of band members find happiness and joy by being included in the silly traditions of their sections.

The determined silence that filled the tunnel and followed us out onto the field for our final performance is something that haunts me to this day, and the flood of pride and tears that filled me after witnessing an entire stadium leap to its feet and erupt in cheers and applause after the conclusion of our prelims performance is a sight I cannot rid from my memory.

Other moments were large and included all 155 musicians, like the first time we played our music as an ensemble at band camp, hearing the hair-raising, skin-tingling resonance of the notes and melodies we would come to cherish bouncing off the gymnasium walls, giving everyone goosebumps and breathless smiles, anticipating the exciting season ahead. Or the intimate and close huddles we would have with our band director, Mr Aylward, before each and every show. We would hold onto each other’s shoulders and soak up the inspiring words of our band director, and scurry over one another to get a fist pump from him once he was done before leaving for the field.

Then there were the post-show huddles, in which we use our hats to gauge our satisfaction of the show we just performed. It was often in these emotionally packed huddles that our band found the powerful motivation we needed to keep improving and to keep perfecting our show in any way we could. As a senior, I will always long to be a part of those huddles once again, and at the last huddle of the season, after our band’s first-ever semifinals in Miamisburg High School’s history, I will always remember the hot tears streaming down my face and down the face of my fellow band members, and even the face of my band director, as we held one another and gazed in awe at what we had just accomplished.

And yet, there is one moment of the 2015 season that I will remember above all else for years and years to come: the moment when our band found out we had made history, when we found out we had one more opportunity to rock the field with our beloved circus show and to perform together one last time.

During the preliminary awards ceremony, the drum majors and senior color guard members of our band were standing on the field, while our band family sat together in the stands. As that dreadful countdown began, the countdown in which the announcer announces the semifinalists in random order, we held our breaths and clenched our hands in awful anxiety. I could hardly hear the announcer from the field, making the moment all the more terrifying. We kept track of the number of bands that had been announced in our heads, and on the 13th slot, the slot in which Miamisburg was announced, my mouth fell open as I heard an eruption of sound come from the left side of the stadium—the side where my band was sitting.

I couldn’t see them from underneath the brim of my hat, but I smiled anyway, imagining their shock and excitement and joy. Their cheers went on for at least 30 seconds after the announcement, and I was proud of their hard work, dedication, and perseverance. That was the moment I had been waiting five years for: the moment when Miamisburg proved that we belonged with 30 of the top bands in the country.

After the drum majors were dismissed, I remember walking to the sidelines in front of the section of the stadium where our band was, and being reunited with them as we all cheered and clapped at one another. We had finally made it, and the feelings and emotions we were experiencing were, and still are, indescribable. That moment was even better than the moment we found out we placed third in our class at semifinals, just because the feeling of being able to perform one more time with 195 people you love so deeply tops any competitive results ever. Yes, that was my favorite moment, and it’s one that I will never forget as long as I live.

The moments we have made together with our show, “Circus Dreams,” will never leave us for as long as we live. For decades to come, our community will always remember “Circus Dreams,” and we will always remember the pride we had in breaking down the barriers and advancing to the next level as an underdog band from Miamisburg, Ohio.

Truly it was these moments, both large and small, that made this 2015 season so incredible for the Miamisburg Marching Band.

We were sad to see it end, and yet so incredibly grateful and full of love for one another that I have never been a part of anything so bittersweet and beautiful. To anyone who has seen our program or has been a part of our success, from the bottom of our hearts: Thank you for being a part of our season, thank you for watching our show and being a part of our circus, and thank you for believing in us. We are so incredibly grateful.

Voxitatis would like to thank the Music For All organization, particularly Eric Martin, president and CEO, and 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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