Memorial’s Big Blue Band Entertains

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MUSIC FOCUS: Members of Memorial’s Big Blue Machine perform throughout marching season at competitions and various events. Students begin rehearsals before the school year begins with a two-week summer camp with daily seven-hour practices.

All nine of Tulsa Public High Schools have their own marching bands. As the first full month of marching season comes to a close, students, parents and teachers know that the work has only just begun.

For members of the Big Blue Machine, Memorial High School’s marching band, preparation for fall competitions and performances began before school was even in session.

Students attended a two-week summer camp before the start of the new school year. Students rehearsed for seven hours each day.

During the fall semester, the 30 Blue Machine members arrive at school each morning one hour before the school day begins and rehearse for two hours. They also attend a three-hour evening practice once a week. Performances include football games throughout the season and five competitions: Oologah Marching Invitational, Sept. 26; Mustang Marching Invitational, Oct. 5; Pryor Band Day, Oct. 12; OSSAA (Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association) Regional Marching Contest, Oct. 23; Oklahoma Bandmasters Association marching contest, Oct. 26.
In past years, the marching band has performed as the lead band in Tulsa’s Veterans Day Parade and the Tulsa Holiday Parade of Lights.

In 2012, the Memorial High School band was a finalist at the Oologah Marching Invitational, with a third place overall finish, a finalist at the Mustang Marching Invitational, with a fourth place overall finish, and a finalist at the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association State Championship, with an eighth place finish. The band was also awarded the OSSAA Sweepstakes Award for Superior Performance in concert, sight-reading and marching competitions.

As with many extracurricular school activities, a supportive parental organization is necessary, says Band Director Heath Miller. Memorial’s band parents support the staff, organize fundraising opportunities, accompany students on trips, feed students at competitions, help with equipment transport—among many other things.

While the work involved and time spent may be strenuous at times, most band students and parents would agree it’s worth it.
Miller seconds that opinion.

He shares a number of reasons students should consider band participation, including college scholarships. During his time at Memorial High School, Miller has seen every student who has auditioned for a music college scholarship receive one. “This is something that can make the difference between a child going to college or not,” he says. It made the difference for him.

He also lists the camaraderie and sense of community experienced between students— “Something about everyone coming together with a shared sense of purpose has a way of binding a group of students together in a way few other activities can.”

For marching band students, Miller points out the added benefits of performing in front of a large audience and the qualities gained from maintaining the constant practice schedule.

“In many cases, this will be the largest audience the kids will every perform in front of,” he says. “The feeling that students have after performing their show to their finest is incomparable.”

Starting with the band’s two-week summer camp, students quickly learn responsibility and dedication and continue to build on those throughout the year. These qualities will benefit students in all aspects of their life and continue to do so long after they are no longer in band, Miller says.

However, for Miller, the ultimate gift students receive from years of band activity is playing music. “Learning an instrument gives a person something they can continue for the rest of their life.”

Miller knows musicians who continue to play in orchestras and concert bands into their 70s. “Couple that with the ability to play music, to create a performance and to open up your emotional side to something greater than yourself,” says Miller, and the reasons to not join band are small and insignificant in comparison.

Updated 10-01-2013

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