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Mainland Mustang Marching Band not content to sit on the sidelines - Ocean City Sentinel: Arts & Entertainment

Mainland Mustang Marching Band not content to sit on the sidelines

Band wins four competitions when not performing at football games

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Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2010 12:00 am

They’re usually associated with the football team’s halftime show, but the Mainland Regional High School marching band isn’t one to just sit on the sidelines.

The band first place in four out of six season competitions this year.

The strong season wasn’t a sure thing last May, when the band reconvened with 20 additional marchers, largely freshmen, that pushed Mainland into the larger and more competitive Group III division. Group III divisions include bands with 58 or more members.

The growth allowed for more complex choreography and a richer sound, but mistakes would be harder to catch with a wider pool, said Bronson Manley, a senior tenor drums player. Add to that the challenge of playing an uncommon classical medley and advanced choreography, and Mainland’s show, Prism, could have easily fallen flat.

Prism’s music, titled “Minimally Speaking,” is written to evoke the feel of a particular color with frequent tempo changes and corresponded with the color guard’s flags and choreography, said Katie Howarth, Mainland’s band director. “Red” opened the show with a fast-paced, forceful feel, said Howarth, and transitioned into a softer “green” before regaining a strong sound for the finale, a dark purple.

“It added a huge amount of emotion and quality to the show,” said Howarth.

The changes took some adjusting, said Breanna Bancheri, a senior clarinetist. The band’s show was still unfinished by the time Mainland entered its second competition at Absegami High School on Oct. 2, the time the marchers normally finalized a routine.

Luckily for the Mainland marchers, the routine clicked in time for the Oct. 9 competition at Shawnee High School and went uphill from there, said Bronson Manley, a tenor drums player.

“That point was at the height of our season,” said Manley. “Everyone was really getting along at that point and it stayed with them until the end.”

“We would have liked to have been ready,” said Joe Keough, an alto sax player, about the early competitions, “but it’s a testament to how hard we worked that we got it together by the end.”

The band’s winning streak followed them until state competitions in late October, when divisions grew from the two to seven bands seen at local competitions to around 21 bands. Though nervous against unfamiliar bands, Mainland did well in its two final competitions, the United States Band Association New Jersey State Competition on Oct. 24 and the USBA Northern All State Marching Band Championship on Nov. 7. Mainland took 10th place on Oct. 24 and 11th on Nov. 7.

“It’s incredible to watch the progression,” said Howarth. “By the end the of the season it’s like wow, I have a huge, polished product.... I love being here with the kids and seeing them work hard and enjoy the benefits of it.”

Despite the preseason uncertainty, the perseverance and enthusiasm of this season seems to be carrying over into next year, meaning competitors can expect equally impressive marching come fall. “There’s going to be big things coming out of here,” predicted Manley.

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