Northwestern, Western bands gear up for another state finals

Oct. 27—The leaves change color. The temperature cools. Children go trick-or-treating. The marching bands at Northwestern and Western compete at state.

At this point, the latter is just as much a fall tradition as anything else that signifies the change in season.

And this year is no different.

The Northwestern Tiger Pride Band and the Western Marching Panthers Band and Guard have another date Saturday at the Indiana State School Music Association Marching Band Finals.

Western finished third in its class last year. Northwestern finished fifth, a school best.

"It's a lot of fun to get to the point of the season where the pressure of moving on is completely off," said Northwestern Band Director Jeremy Snyder. "The best part about making State Finals is you get to have your final performance on your own terms."

That final performance is "She Walks in Beauty," based on an 1814 poem written by Lord Byron.

The eight-minute show features music from songs such as "Just a Girl" by No Doubt, "Material Girl" by Madonna and "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, among others.

A woman's life, from starting school to becoming a grandmother, is depicted through the performance. Snyder said he told his band members to think about a woman who has had an impact in their life.

"The judges have been really, really appreciative and said a lot of good things about that visualization," Snyder said. "They really, really love our program and what our message is and how we get it across."

Musicians in the band wear blue. The color guard wears pink and is a focal point for the show.

The Northwestern band has worked to perfect "She Walks in Beauty" since the end of May.

Jackson Kirby, a senior snare drummer, said listening to past performances has helped the band improve during the season.

"We sound clearer compared to how we were earlier in the year," he said.

"We've worked together for months, the synergy is better," added Ethan Dale, a senior alto saxophone player.

Emily Lyles, a senior color guard member said there is a palpable sense of confidence in the band, compared to when they started.

"Everyone was excited about it, but they were scared," Lyles added. "(Now) they're very sure of themselves."

Same goes for when the Marching Panthers were first introduced to their show for this season, titled "Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives."

The show carries a deeper message than in previous years — what will you do with your one life? — a deliberate choice by band director Stephan Garber.

"The whole point is you will have the decision and opportunity and will you let that hold you back or step up for the chance," he said. "It's a hard concept to capture with adolescent teens."

Music includes snippets from "Dreams Unfulfilled" by Don Barrett and multiple pieces from Italian composer Ezio Bosso.

"A whole bunch of music people probably haven't heard before, and it's absolutely gorgeous," Garber said.

The show opens with a mellophone solo by Jackson Edwards surrounded by woodwind players. There's also a trust fall.

"It's all different, but it all meshes together," said clarinet player Isabelle Droll. "It's something I've never done before."

It's a challenging show, and it's supposed to be.

"That's something Western has always been," Garber said. "Let's not take the easy route."

Droll realized how far the band had come while she was warming up with the wind players before a recent practice.

"We sound a lot better than we did in June," she said.

"I had a little 'wow' moment," Droll said. "We've gotten so confident."

Judges' feedback has reiterated as much.

"It's great to hear from them because that's what we're advocating to the students as well," Garber said.

The focus this week has been on the connectivity of the entire show, which he describes as a roller coaster.

While marching bands technically compete against one another, the real competition is against themselves with the goal of turning in the best performance of the year.

That's especially true for those who will play their final performance Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"It's bittersweet," Lyles said. "I really love this. I'm really glad we made it to state, but I'm sad it's ending."

Final scores, and a state championship, are determined by judges.

"Winning is not the goal for me," said Edwards, a five-year member of the Marching Panthers. "I like performing for people."

But that doesn't mean it's not on the mind of some high school band members.

"My whole being," Lyles said, when asked if there was any part of her that wanted to win. "I would love to be first place. I think we can."

"We could do it if everyone put their minds to it this week," Dale added.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.