Friday, September 29, 2023

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America


POMFRET, Md. (Nov. 15) — The musical Band Geeks is in performance this weekend at McDonough High School here in Charles County, but there’s growing evidence that the show’s premise—that musicians in the band aren’t as cool as athletes on the football team—is less of a factor in students’ lives than it may have been decades ago.

School via Twitter

The Bands of America organization, which hosted its Grand National Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this weekend, featuring entertainment and artistry from 88 high school marching bands, reported that the football team from Milford High School in Ohio came to the competition to support the band that has shown its support during football games this season. A comment noted that this sort of broad support has been shown by other football teams over the years.

And if you have ever been to a home football game at Downers Grove North High School in west-suburban Chicago, you have seen how mutual support between the football team and the marching band enhances the high school experience for students in both groups.

But mutual support doesn’t make a good plot for a Broadway musical, at least not as good as the mocking of band students by fellow students on the football team.

Band is really just a placeholder for all the fine arts, though. It’s the most visible element of the fine arts programming at most high schools, and students sometimes feel less than supported by their classmates because their interests lie in different areas, such as Star Trek or music compositions that highlight the tuba as the center of attention.

“It may be called Band Geeks, but it’s about all of us in the arts who struggle to feel appreciated as artists for our art, who long to be accepted for who we are, and who feel the passion of the art form so deep in our souls,” wrote the show’s director, Jana W Heyl.

“Embrace your Inner Geek! Enjoy!”

Even within a marching band unit, though, there can be a class system. “You’re just a tuba player, and she’s a twirler girl,” one band member explains to Elliot, who is trying to catch the attention of baton twirler Nicole, who has her sights set on a drummer who was kicked out of his former school, where he played football. The number “One Look at You” underscores the sort of quick stereotypes that fly back and forth between both groups at some schools:

One look at you and I see
everything I need to know.
Got your future all planned out,
Got it wrapped up in a bow.
To attempt the things
Your parents want you to,
I get the picture,
One look at you.

But the students are only part of the story in Band Geeks. The musical also observes how school districts tend to cut fine arts programming when funds get low. Not only is the band program going to get cut, Principal Ms Dixon says, but the band will have to forfeit the use of the practice field for rehearsals and work out in the parking lot, where they have to dodge passing cars before they can finish a drill.

The band students make up for the lack of financial support from the school and practice at night and even sign up for the “Festival of Champions” at the Ohio State University. While the future of the Cuyahoga High Marching Beavers may be left hanging at the conclusion of the show, the Vandergrift High School marching band from the Dallas area, named Grand National Champion by Bands of America Saturday, can attest to the fact that this isn’t the case everywhere either (our coverage).

Although the show suffered from a few sound technology glitches on Friday night, the applause from a rather full house got louder as the crew came out from the wings in front of the stage for their bows. Perhaps some of that volume also came from the cast members, who started clapping at that time as well.

Music by Mark Allen, music and lyrics by Gaby Alter, concept, music, lyrics and book by Tommy Newman and Gordon Greenberg, “Band Geeks” is in performance at McDonough High School in Pomfret, Maryland, Thursday through Saturday, November 14–16.

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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