Trojans Step Up Competitive Program, March to a Winning Beat

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 4:00 pm
Lucas Walters

The East Lansing High School color guard performs along with the marching band at halftime of the Trojans' football game Oct. 3 at Lynn C. Adams Stadium. (Photos by Raymond Holt)

The 160-member East Lansing High School marching band concluded its competitive season Saturday by capturing first place in the DeWitt Marching Invitational. The band also competed in the Rockford Marching Invitational on September 21 (finishing second), and participated in the Grand Ledge Marching Exhibition on October 9.

The season began June 4  with the distribution of music and section introduction and continued after a recess for the summer before band camp (July 30 through August 3).

This year’s show, entitled “Space Race,” marked a significant step up from the shows of the past. It features original music and arrangements of “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy and “Space Oddity” by David Bowie.

“It’s really a banner year for the marching band,” said ELHS Band Director David Larzelere. “We invested in more sophisticated show design, music that was custom-written, drill that was custom-written. The new products are much more significant, and it allows for a much better overall package.”

In addition to the upgraded show design, the front ensemble has benefited from a significant makeover. The additions included two speakers, a synthesizer, and microphones for the four mallet percussion instruments.

The new sound system has been used to add special effects such as voice-overs from speeches by President Kennedy and audio from when astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon.

“It’s been really fun, I feel like we’re getting way closer to what the more competitive front ensembles are,” said senior front ensemble section leader Hope Dwyer. “It adds a lot to the show, having the synth cart and the voice-overs. It’s a new direction for the marching band, but it’s a lot of fun to put it together.”

Rockford performance was a plus

The Rockford invitational was added to this year’s schedule when Larzelere’s former intern Evan Bahm, now an assistant band director at Rockford High School, extended an invitation to compete in the annual event.

Larzelere worked the band hard to ensure that the entire three-song show was performance-ready for Rockford, which made sure that suggestions and areas in need of attention could be addressed for all three songs. Ultimately, that (feedback) would help the performance of all three songs ahead of the DeWitt competition: the band’s ultimate goal for the season.

“It’s quite important because it really shows us what we’ve accomplished throughout the season and it shows how much work we have put into everything we do, and we get to show that off to other schools around us,” junior trumpeter Aidan Menzies said.

Strategy pays off in multiple ways

By having a complete performance for Rockford, the band took home second place in Class A, the large school division of competition. Specific concerns raised by the judges at Rockford were used to help prepare for the DeWitt competition. In addition to standard in-season improvement, the band then practiced and learned several choreographed moves during musical moments to add visual interest to its performance.

By the time of the DeWitt competition, the band had been working on the show consistently for 11 weeks, with a standard halftime show and the Grand Ledge exhibition to put the group through its final adjustments.

The additional work paid off, as the band’s score improved by around 7 points to a 93.2, good for first place -- an unexpected result that served as the cherry on top of a strong and exciting season.

“I think we have accomplished a lot, especially in the amount we have improved our show from the beginning of the year to now,” Menzies said.

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