“Small but mighty” is how senior Meg McKnight describes this year’s Wellington Dukes marching band.
The group has 22 members, which is the smallest it’s been in the five years McKnight has been a part of the band.
Band camp began last Monday and is going well despite the low numbers.
“We’ve got, I think, five new eighth-graders and they’re coming along really well,” McKnight said. “We weren’t sure at the beginning how things were going to work out but the first day looked great.”
The Dukes spent most of the first week learning pregame music and formations, which includes “The Star Spangled Banner” and the fight song. They received the music for the first halftime show last Thursday and took to the field to learn the corresponding drills Monday morning.
The theme of the first show is swing and includes music such as Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Al’s Ragtime Band.”
“We try to do styles that fit us best and jazz is one of them but the homecoming show, depending on the theme, might be different,” senior Michaela Toth said. “So it might not all be jazz. It might be more rock or more Latin. It just depends.”
Toth said the band typically learns 20 or more songs and drills during marching band season.
McKnight said having such a small group is going to make going to competition and taking the field more interesting because mistakes are much more noticeable and it’s more difficult to be seen and heard.
“You can still make shapes and stuff but it’s not the full effect of a big band. But we make it work,” she said.
Every year the band travels to competitions in the hunt for a state bid. In past years, the band participated in four or five competitions, including state.
This year, assistant band director Gayle Hughes said the Dukes musicians will probably attend three. The band will need to score a superior rating at one of the three contests to qualify for state.
Being so small, the band doesn’t have enough members to support a flag corps and Hughes isn’t sure if that will affect scoring. But making it to state or getting the highest score possible isn’t how the directors determine how successful the year is.
“What we look for is improvement,” she said. “We’re very pleased with the progress. We’re moving forward, not standing still.”
Both McKnight and Toth hope to make it to the state competition to finish their fifth and final year in Wellington’s marching band.
“Personally, I hope to go to state because we’ve gone every year and we might as well go out with a bang,” Toth said.
The band will continue to practice Monday through Friday for six hours a day until the start of school Sept. 2. Once the school year begins, the band will practice for about 90 minutes after school lets out.
Band director Toni Novotny declined to comment on the band’s outlook for the season. Embroiled since last winter in legal conflicts involving allegations by a former student, she cited the advice of her lawyers against speaking to the media.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise Grace Broome, Meg McKnight, and Paul Hornbeck march on the practice field with instruments in hand but instead of playing music they count measures out loud.