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Lawrence Twp. bands combine & make a champion

INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 14) — This is the sixth 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.

The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, in the northeast corner of Indianapolis, including Lawrence North and Lawrence Central high schools, brings a marching band to a semifinal performance at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in their home town. The band is under the direction of Randy Greenwell, a teacher at Central, and is led on the field by drum majors Nicole Cordes, Kevin Davis, Zoe Magill, and Dejuan Winters.


The Pride of Lawrence Township performs at the Grand Nationals on November 12, 2015. (Voxitatis)

“The township knows how strong the performing arts programs are at the schools,” Mr Greenwell said of a community that has grown in diversity since he came there in the early 1990s but has always enjoyed having a world-class performing ensemble.

“They’re very aware of that, and they’re very supportive. Our superintendent is terrific. We’re now doing a huge fundraising campaign, because a lot of our kids wouldn’t be able to afford to take part in the program if we didn’t.”

Serving a changing socioeconomic demographic—more than 60 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals—has brought new challenges, but he said he’s a firm believer that every kid can learn. The staff is “probably somewhat maniacal and crazy in that we probably challenge our kids even more so than some other groups.

“We feel like we have to be different to be memorable when it comes to a 94-band contest,” he said. “You have to put yourself in a situation where we have to be memorable, because you’re not going to be able to play as loud as Avon or Carmel. We’re not as big as they are.”

That quality of memorability, so evident this year with a show that simulated a cyclone, has clearly paid off for students.

“We have kids who have come out of the color guard, and they go into the Army or Marines, and they’re leaders in their field,” he said. “It’s just really cool to see that transformation and to think of what might have been if they didn’t have this. They tell me sometimes they wouldn’t have survived boot camp if they hadn’t participated in the marching band. That transcends a trophy and an awards ceremony and all that other stuff.”

We’re pleased to present here a brief description of the band, written by John Chung, a senior at Lawrence Central. He was the tenor drummer in the middle of the chaotic cyclone and, as such, the picture Lawrence Township’s 185 students will remember for years to come.

NOT every band has the opportunity to compete in the BOA Grand National Championships, as the distance or cost may be a hindrance. But to live in Indianapolis, the home of this national competition, is a blessing that I do not take for granted. As a senior, this is my fourth time competing at Grand Nationals, but with my second band.

My first band, the Spirit of Central, existed up until the end of my sophomore year. Beginning in my junior year for the 2014 season, the Lawrence Township Marching Pride came from two separate marching bands combined into one. Our band has only existed for two seasons, but our history behind both original ensembles has molded the ideals and design of our current program.

Our 2015 program, entitled “Turbulence,” comes from the general concept of turbulence, of movement of both air and water. Our music comes from “Vetrate Di Chiesa” by Ottorino Respighi; “Neptune” from The Planets by Gustav Holst; the main theme “Turbulence” by Shirley Anne Walker, an American film and TV composer; and “Ride” by Samuel R Hazo.

Our band did not receive the music all at once, but movement by movement in order to learn each section of the show at a good pace. We began learning the show at band camp at the beginning of August, receiving the music to the opener a few weeks prior so we could learn drill to it, come band camp. As the weeks went on, more music was distributed and more drill was taught until the full show was put on the field.

In addition to the music and drill, the visual aspects of the show became layered and layered as well. More choreography, more free-form movement—all that physically conveyed the ideas of Turbulence. During free-form parts of the show, the scattering represented the wind at some parts, then a strong storm at another.

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One distinct moment in our show was after the ballad: the band was separated into close pods that expanded into large circles like a radar. As the circles expanded, they intersected, becoming cluttered, and our bodies became unstable from the storm “shaking” the field. Near the climax, I slowly began turning in place on the 50-yard line, arms extended out on either side. As the band around me collapsed to the ground in a ripple, I began to pick up speed, spinning faster and faster, representing a lightning rod, as the clap of thunder echoed across the stadium.

Another visual aspect during that moment was the “debris” thrown by the band members. As they fell, some would throw a long, colorful streamer into the air, others would throw long shako plumes, but both were meant to cover the field as much as possible. We did this to better convey the idea of a “storm” coming through the stadium, leaving the field a complete mess by the end of the show.

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Our uniforms also had detachable capes that we were instructed to take off throughout the show, littering the field as well. Some members were even told to take their uniform jackets off to create even more debris. Our design was fully committed to the idea of Turbulence, through interpretive body motion and physical objects scattered across the field.

We had been working on this show, this production, for over three months nearly every day, committing to being athletes as well as musicians while expressing the concept of Turbulence.

It is absolutely gratifying to have the chance to perform in the Grand National Championships. Everything our band had been working towards, the standard of excellence and drive for performance, would be recognized by thousands of people watching in the stands.

In our preliminary performance, there were some nerves to overcome, but the band was able to work together and perform our show like we knew how. The same applies to our semifinals performance, but with another level of comfortability after our prelims run. I noticed the crowd in this second run at Lucas Oil, especially going into the final hit at the end of show. I could feel the band around me giving off so much raw energy into that last hit. The thunderous roar of the crowd after we finished is something truly special to experience after performing such a physically demanding show.

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Although it was heartbreaking to learn that we did not advance into finals, I knew in my mind that our band had overcome many challenges throughout the season, and we pushed together into that last run at semifinals.

There is something remarkable about this ensemble that can bring in so many different people to create a show like “Turbulence.” This season would not have been possible without the student leaders, our directors and staff, the parents, and the support of our community. So many people are responsible for making this season happen, and I’m very thankful for that.

Marching band is something I will cherish for the rest of my life; not many people ever get to experience what I have. Through the good and bad days, the hot and cold, and the ups and downs, I am thankful for the privilege to have been a member of the Marching Pride of Lawrence Township.

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 is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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