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Marching Mustangs feel summer heat - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Marching Mustangs feel summer heat

Mainland band has long days of practice for upcoming season

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019 10:18 am

LINWOOD – Jon Ratcliffe, the band director at Mainland Regional High School, said the upcoming competition season’s schedule is packed for the Mustang marching band.

Ratcliffe joined the Mustangs as band director two years ago. Previously he worked with marching bands at Williamstown High School and Egg Harbor Township High School after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in music education. 

“I spent two years over at Williamstown High School as an on-field instructor, and then I moved over to Egg Harbor Township High School and I spent two more years there,” Ratcliffe said. “And then this job opened up and I was leaving college and I was like, ‘this would be a really good step,’ this is what I wanted to do. This is my 10th year doing the marching band including high school.”

“Marching band is one of my favorite things to do,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s a very different activity. It’s a lot different from teaching it in the classroom.”

Add heat to the difference. The band took part in a camp for two weeks in mid-August.

The camp was for nine days, Monday through Friday with intense hours. During the week of Aug. 12 to 16 the camp lasted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, with the next week being reduced to only four days leading up to the Parent Preview.

“It’s nine days. Monday through Friday this week,” Ratcliffe said in the middle of the first week, “and then it’s four days next week at a reduced schedule. And then we build up towards our Parent Preview show, that’s next Thursday, so that everyone can come and see what the kids have been doing for the last nine days.”

Practices include being outside, going through the drills and of course, playing music, which parents got to observe all that their children have been up to at the Parent Preview Aug. 22.

They got to see what the band will be doing in competitions during the fall season and while performing at Mainland Mustang football games.

But it takes a lot of sweat to get to that point.

“We work from eight to eight,” Ratcliffe said. “We spend time outside, we learn drill, we come inside, we practice music, and then at night we try to put everything together, kind of like how you would see it on the field in competition.”

The Mainland marching band has a busy schedule, Ratcliffe said. In the months of September and October, they have a meet every Saturday. The band will also be competing in the State Championships and the championships to be held in Hershey Park, Pa. 

“This year we have a very, very packed schedule,” Ratcliffe said. “We go out every Saturday from September to October. In the middle of October we add on two Sunday competitions. We are competing at State Championships, we are competing at South Jersey Regional Championships. This year we are lucky enough that we get a week off after all of that to re-energize, take a breath, and then the following week, the first week in November is our championships up in Hershey, Pennsylvania.”

The band’s first competition will be Sept. 14 at Gateway Regional High School. However, the first public performance will be at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 during a home football game against Absegami High School.

“During the year, we have two to three rehearsals a week, depending on what it is,” Ratcliffe said. “We have Friday football games, so if we’re at home, we perform for the home crowd.”

Ratcliffe was eager and excited to explain why practices are so demanding in the weeks leading up to the band’s performances. 

“There’s a lot of moving pieces that go into this,” Ratcliffe said. “We have to, on top of learning the music inside, we have to learn outside how they are going to be moving around. Then, we have to work on putting it all together.”

Ratcliffe explained how different ensembles will practice separately, such as percussion, wind and the guard. Long practices are imperative to work on blending everyone back together. 

Ratcliffe said there are 60 members of the band and the participants are evenly spread throughout the three towns that attend the high school – Somers Point, Linwood and Northfield.

The band will be competing in the 2A category this year. 

“We compete in Tournament of Bands,” Ratcliffe said. “We’re in group 2A, so there’s Open and then there’s A. Last year, I moved them back to A, and in order to get to Open you really have to be promoted to do that. With how many director changes there have been over the last couple of years and how many newbies we had last year, we felt it was a good idea to kind of restart in A and work our way back up to Open.”

“There’s a lot of competition in the group that we’re in,” Ratcliffe said. “It tells us when we’re ready to move up.”

Parents got the preview, but everyone else can catch Ratcliffe and the Mainland Mustang Marching Band at 6 p.m., Friday, Sept. 6 at the Mustang Corral as the ‘stangs defend their home turf against Absegami High School. 



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