By JENNIFER MEIER
---- — By JENNIFER MEIER
GOSHEN — It’s about as far away from summer band camp as it can get.
The temperatures have dropped dramatically. Band members have gone from trying out new steps to perfecting movements that are now second nature. It’s no longer about learning new music, but putting the finishing touches on well-rehearsed numbers.
Four Elkhart County marching bands are moving from outside competition on high school football fields to the well-manicured turf inside the Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday for ISSMA state finals.
Goshen (Class A)
For the Goshen High School marching band the week leading up to the final performance didn’t look much different from the past several weeks.
“It’s nothing special. We are continuing to do what we’ve done all season — get better,” said Band Director Tom Cox. “I like to steal a phrase I have seen before that goes, ‘There is no finish line.’ We just want to be the best we can and enjoy the moment.”
That’s not to say that Cox and the other directors don’t have plenty of advice and direction for the students when it comes to their show, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’.
“The final week is about the last few details ... crescendo to the release, give us five percent more on that crescendo, snap those horns up, square off that corner, watch your interval.” Cox said.
Some of the advice is a bit more general.
“I tell them to be the best they can be and not to worry about anyone else,” he said. “And of course I tell the seniors to enjoy this because it’s their last state finals performance ever.”
The Crimson Marchers play seventh in the lineup, just after perenial state and national power, Avon. Cox is pleased with the position.
“I like it,” Cox said. “Performing after one of the best marching bands in the nation will give us a chance to compare with the best. We have many good friends at Avon and look forward to seeing them.”
Goshen placed second last year at the ISSMA state finals in Class B. The last time the band performed in Class A, they placed ninth.
Concord (Class B)
Concord Marching Band Director Scott Spradling, his staff and students are reaching toward a higher level of performance.
“Reflecting on our performance last Saturday (semi-state), we agreed that we have a better show in us,” Spradling said. “We thought it was our best show of the year, but not the best we can perform.”
The week before state finals was spent rehearsing, and sorting through and refining various points in the show.
“We have moments in the show that are still lacking complete precision and emotional support. We are working to raise the student’s confidence level so they can take it to the next level of emotional connection,” Spradling said. “This show has a high dramatic quality that is not always easy to bring out of 14 to 18 year old kids.”
The Marching Minutemen had to work together closely to work out the details of a show that Spradling has described throughout the season as ‘very difficult.’
“The students had to give their best everyday. They had to learn the show quickly and deliberately, developing positive relationships within the group,” Spradling said. “Our senior class had to help mold our younger students into motivated caring individuals. Our show, ‘RISE-The Revolution Within’ not only provided us with the environment where our excellent staff could utilize their amazing skills, but also provide us with a vehicle to reach all of those other pursuits.”
Spradling also said that the show is not only about a people seeking the freedom to grow and overcome life’s challenges through peaceful resistance, it is, more importantly an affirmation that each student in the staffs’ care is as unique and beautiful as the flowers that grow in a garden.
“I have been amazed at the outpouring of support and love from our parents as we work together to cultivate our ‘garden’ of talented young people as they blossom,” Spradling said. “Here’s hoping that the final performance can be a reflection of all those pursuits.”
Concord won the Class B ISSMA state finals in 2011 and placed fifth last year.
Fairfield (Class C)
Andrew Muth is in his second year as Director of Bands at Fairfield Junior/Senior High School. And he is headed to ISSMA State Finals for the second time.
Muth has marched as a band member many times at state. He knows that judging can be subjective. But he’s also confident that this year’s show is a winner — if not in the minds of the judges, than definitely in the minds of the band.
“I have marched in shows that I felt like were easily the top contender of the day. And I’ve gotten sixth place with those shows,” Muth said. “You have to walk away and say, ‘Well, that six people’s opinions.’ It’s really about the show and how you feel about it.”
For Muth, Fairfield’s semi-state performance last Saturday felt very good.
“Right now I feel like that show was about 98 percent,” he said. “And sometimes that last two percent can make the biggest difference.”
This week the band and color guard worked on perfecting that two percent.
“We learned a lot from the judge’s tapes,” he said. “So right now it’s about tightening everything down and paying attention to the smallest details. It’s really about being superior in every detail — not almost superior.”
The Marching Pride of Fairfield with their show, ‘Everyone Has a Dark Side’ plays in the middle of the Class C line up in Indianapolis.
Fairfield placed seventh at ISSMA state finals last year.
NorthWood (Class C)
Tuesday evening found the NorthWood marching band making a small visual change to their program, “Tenebris Nocte” (The Dark Night).
“It’s just something we think will add a little spark to the program,” said Band Director Eric Criss. “The kids are doing a lot of fine tuning and polishing right now.”
Criss knows that the judging can vary greatly from week to week, but takes their comments in stride.
“You listen to all their comments and you look for themes,” he said. “If different judges are saying the same thing, you should take a closer look. If one says ‘A’ and the other says ‘B’ — well as a director you just have to go with what you believe. You just follow your gut.”
Last year was the first time The Red Regiment made it to state finals in four years.
“Of course the kids are very happy to head to state again,” Criss said. “But they are not quite so nervous because it’s no longer the unknown. They know what’s coming and how to prepare.”
Criss feels like the show’s music will translate well from the outdoors to the indoor venue and is also pleased with NorthWood’s position as the last band to compete in Class C.
“I’d rather be last than first,” Criss said. “One simple reason is that the band that performs later usually has a larger audience to play for. And I think that gets the kids a little more excited and gives them a little more energy.”
The Red Regiment placed sixth at ISSMA state finals in 2012.