phs band

Bass Drum player Ian Gamboa after one week of band camp. Photo by D. Coffey. (August 18, 2014)

Fifty-five members of the Plainfield High School marching band were going through their paces on the football field on Aug. 15. Band Director Kacey Howard watched from the roof of the sports booth high over mid-field. When they finished the short movement, Howard gave them immediate feedback.

"Alto's let it rip," she yelled. "Sax, don't run out of gas. Tuba, you need more air." Then Howard asked them to run through the movement all over again.

The students have been studying the music and marching patterns of what will eventually be a seven-minute, three movement show. "Prophecy" is a piece composed by Howard's husband, Chris. It's inspired by Shakespeare's tragedy, "Macbeth."

"We thought we could do something interesting and unique," Howard said. After brainstorming and listening to two symphonies based on "Macbeth" they came up with their 2014 show.

The students, Howard and her assistants have been practicing their marching, then their music, then putting the two together in careful choreography. Color guard members have been weaving in and out of the band's formation doing a separate but related movement choreographed to the music. It's one big moving jigsaw puzzle that has to be ready for Sept. 12 when the Plainfield football team hosts its first home game.

Band camp is an intensive training camp for PHS musicians. Their days start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., five days a week for two weeks. Each day they've been given several pages worth of drills and music to master. In their first week they completed 11 sets, focusing on the music, marching and drill charts that let each musician know their place on the field. They'll learn 30 more in the second week. It's a huge investment for the students. Besides performing at each home football game, they'll hit the road for competitions. This year they'll make six of them, including the Clipper Invitational on Sept. 20.

Drum Major Noah Sarette took his position on top of the platform and gave the cue to band members to begin another drill –this time without playing the music. "What I do doesn't matter," he said. "They're the ones who make the magic happen." He nodded to the students on the field.

The students held their instruments and counted out the number of beats. They stopped after eight beats or 16 beats and checked their positions against others on the field. Howard could see where the holes developed or where the spacing was off. They adjusted themselves to fit the diagrams they'd been studying all week. "Let's do a full run through," Howard said, and the students hustled into position.

Sarette took his cue from the drum line, gave the order to begin, and all at once the field came alive with music and movement. "Today is better than yesterday," Howard yelled from her perch when they finished. "Your feet looked beautiful. Color guard, you were together. Now let's go to the beginning and play that again."

It will be a challenge to follow up their 2013 success when they captured the USBands 2A State Championship and All New England Championship. It's one challenge of many they've embraced. All 55 band members accepted the ALS ice-bucket challenge at the end of their first week of training. They raised $600 for the cause.