Snowed in: The impacts of the cancellation of Marching Band State

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Snowed in: The impacts of the cancellation of Marching Band State

The Fossil Ridge Marching Band performs their show at a football game in September, 2019.

The Fossil Ridge Marching Band performs their show at a football game in September, 2019.

Liam H. Flake

The Fossil Ridge Marching Band performs their show at a football game in September, 2019.

Liam H. Flake

Liam H. Flake

The Fossil Ridge Marching Band performs their show at a football game in September, 2019.

Liam H. Flake

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The moment that the Fossil Ridge High School Marching Band has waited for, worked for, poured hundreds of hours into, has arrived.

It is 8:00 P.M. The air is cold, crisp, and snow is falling on performers and spectators alike. Floodlights pour a fluorescent glow over Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, where bands from across the state have gathered to compete in a final showdown. Not only has Fossil’s band won first place at the competition the year before, but they have placed first at the two competitions prior, with record breaking scores. Now, they are striving to beat out historic rivals for the title of State Champions. Band members set up their props, pushing carefully constructed pieces of the fountain for which the show is named into position. Color guard members place flags and rifles in precisely choreographed locations. Students hustle to line up, knowing exactly where to go from an unimaginable amount of rehearsal. As they begin to move, to play, they know the glorious title they have worked for, and that this is the opportunity to prove that they deserve it.

 

This, however, is not what happened. Instead, the Colorado Bandmasters Association announced on Friday, October 18, four days ahead of the competition, that the 2019 State 4A and 5A Semi-Finals and Final Championship was cancelled due to expected inclement weather.

Instead, Senior saxophonist Dane Harnisch is sitting at his kitchen table. He is working towards filling out the Common Application—the early action deadline for University of Michigan and Stanford University is only three days away. It has been snowing all day, coating Fort Collins in a blanket of white. There has been enough snow to incite the school district to cancel all after school activities and put a two hour delay in place for the next day. And so Dane presses forward, determined to finish his applications.

A corkboard hangs on the wall in front of him, boasting various memorabilia that includes pictures of him marching, and a patch that proclaims him a 2018 Marching Band State Champion.

On the same day, Kenny Hotra wakes up and feels out of place. He heads to Architecture for first period, learning about Revit—an architectural tool that allows one to design houses, and notably change the surrounding topography. He continues to second period, then lunch, then third period. Kenny leaves during Extended Learning Opportunity—he intended to wait around for band practice after school, but the snow has rendered this unnecessary. The whole time, something feels off.

“Tuesday morning was kinda awkward since I had this feeling I should be somewhere else, and I was just here.”

When the State Championship was cancelled, it was due to a combination of factors: Air Force Academy’s campus itself was closed, for one, and their tight game schedule made rescheduling impossible, and other venues used in the past were simply too expensive.

The cancellation of the state competition, although potentially disappointing, was also a  necessary choice for participants and students. “They wanted to cancel it in advance so that we didn’t end up spending a lot of money that we couldn’t get back,” explained band director Meghan Muñoz. There are various expenses associated with travelling to the competition—a total of around 5,000 dollars for hotels, paid for by band members, in addition to expenses for busses, equipment trucks, food, and more—which were saved by the cancellation of the championship. Besides this, the glacial conditions of Falcon Stadium were simply unfit for performances. “You can’t march in snow, and when it’s really cold, I mean, it’s abusive to kids,” Muñoz offered. “twenty degrees under, your mouthpiece will stick to your lips. The woodwinds, they can’t move their fingers and they don’t get to cover their fingers because they have to cover holes. It’s not like they have gloves on their fingers, and they’re exposed to the elements. We try to take care of our kids by providing them with parkas and hand warmers, but that’s not enough to compete in that kind of weather.”

In spite of the cancellation, the Fossil Ridge High School Marching Band was declared 2019 state champions on Wednesday, October 30. This title followed a season of success with record-breaking scores, and when the final competition did not take place, it was ultimately decided that the final rankings would fall back upon the results of the regional competition. This declared victory, however, came with mixed sentiments. “There’s kind of two sides to that,” stated Senior and trumpet player Aaron Lucas. While the champion title reflects a season of consistent success and high scores, this success was not guaranteed at their final competition. “I remember last year, we consistently got second in the competitions leading up to state, but state was really when we brought it home, and that’s why we won,” Lucas provided. “Some of the other band programs were a little upset by the decision to make us champions based off of regionals, which is understandable. Because, you know, I’m sure if that had happened to us last year, we might be upset as well.” Muñoz offered some similar insights, explaining the importance of the state championship amongst potentially shifting rankings: “The best bands are continually changing and building upon what they have so that their final product is the best it can be. So I’m really sad for those bands that didn’t get the opportunity.”

Though the band missed the opportunity to compete at the state championship this year, the loss is ultimately more than compensated for by the opportunity to compete in the Bands of America Utah Regional Championship in St. George, Utah. In this way, they are able to bring their season to a satisfying conclusion, but also bring their performances onto the national level. “We’re very excited, it’s the first time Fossil’s ever performed nationally with the entire band,” Muñoz stated regarding the opportunity. “Obviously the Wind Symphony, which is our highest concert ensemble here, has done national events, but we wanted to take the whole band. We’re trying to break onto the national stage. It’s their first time, and we’re super excited.” Lucas shared similar sentiments. “I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be laying the groundwork for the future of this program.”

The Fossil Ridge Marching Band competed in the Bands of America Utah Regional Championship on Saturday, November 9, taking eighth place.