Dec. 2—It was a couple of Julys ago at a COVID-abbreviated band camp near Morgantown, and this band was most assuredly working it, on an almost-sweltering day.
Meet the renowned Red and Blue Marching Band of Morgantown High School.
Director Lorne Hyskell was leading the teen players through "Attitude Dance, " a 6-minute romp of funk and swagger by Tower of Power, the horn juggernaut that regularly sold out stadiums across the nation in the 1970s.
The MHS band was nailing it, save for a few tweaks here and there.
"Too heavy after the solo, " Hyskell said. "We're dragging."
The director, again: "Let me hear those last four measures again—we got weird with the tempo."
And again: "We need to be more out front with the articulation."
"You're still talking louder than you're playing."
So it went, with instruments glinting in the sun, until Hyskell handed a new measure.
"Break time. Find yourself some shade. Drink that water."
For generations, this band has had people on the edge of their seats—and on their feet—as it has taken its act from the Macy's Day Parade on Thanksgiving, to the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for a sonic thank you to the Greatest Generation.
In the dusk and in the shadows under the lights Friday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium, the Red and Blue opted for the former.
Seats on the edge, that is.
The band swapped out its brass and snares for cordless drills and 9 /16th socket wrenches to uninstall the special stadium seats that the band leases out every season before kickoff.
It's as steady as a drumline cadence. The band puts them in, the band takes them out.
They are rental seats with backs that can make those metal bleachers a little more comfortable at the stadium. The band puts in the work and gets a percentage of the fees paid by those fans who rent those seats for the season.
"It's a major fundraiser for us, " Hyskell said.
Speaking Thursday afternoon, he didn't have an exact count of the seating taken down. He just knew it was going to number into the thousands.
Each one thoroughly wiped down, and carefully stacked and stored, when it's done.
Hyskell himself is a band kid from way back. He hails from Punxsutawney, Pa., where a certain groundhog named Phil also lives, using shadows (or the absence thereof) to determine the fate of winter every season.
If high school football is big in that quadrant of the Keystone State, high school marching bands are just as big.
Across north-central West Virginia, where the Friday Night Lights rule every autumn, Morgantown High's band can cast a pretty big shadow, as well.
These days, the Red and Blue is 184 members strong, which is pretty good, Hyskell said, since the pandemic wielded the baton for so long.
"I'm proud of our kids, " he said. "They're talented and they work hard."
Because he knows it's not just about notes on a chart, they know it too, the director said.
"I tell them, when you're on that field at halftime, you aren't just playing for your mom or dad or your peers, " he said.
"You're playing for your community. Especially in this town."