Daniel Faatz performs during a recent home football game at McNary High School. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

In the midst of a performance, McNary High School drum major Hannah Patterson’s commitment to the band is visible on her face.

It’s held rigid as she watches the lead drum major and flows into her hands as she cuts through the air with crisp, rhythmic motions leading the band through their routine. That stony-faced resolve is a sharp contrast to the dimples that are immediately visible as soon as she steps down from the podium.

“If you had a brain monitor hooked up to one of our players, you would be amazed,” Patterson, a senior and trumpet player, said. “I’ve taken hard classes, but I’ve never worked as hard as I do on the field. You’re watching the music, watching the conductor, watching the form, watching the next set and thinking march with this foot at this time. When I was a freshman, I didn’t anticipate working this hard.”

Each week during football home game, the band takes the field for a six-minute set, but most don’t realize exactly how much preparation goes into that performance.

“There are some people who hear us practicing out at 9 p.m. on Monday nights, but I’m not even sure they realize that we have our own competitions,” said flutist Patricia Brown. “We love coming out to support our team and our school, but we’d love to have more people at our competitions.”

The marching band’s profile rose this year over previous years, said Josh Boyles, a senior drum major and trombone player.

“We’re getting more respect from the football players this year. The crowd is quieter, and we’re getting a lot more compliments,” Boyles said.

At the band’s most recent competition Saturday, Oct. 2, few members were happy with their final showing, but they made progress nonetheless.

“Our performance reflected our rehearsals, but our score went up about five points between the preliminaries and the finals and that’s a very big deal. If we can continue that learning curve, it will be fantastic,” Patterson said.

Even when some cylinders are misfiring there are plenty of other skills to learn.

“It helps you be a problem solver,” Boyles said. “Everyone thinks they’re right, and you think you’re right, and you’ve got to communicate to put a good product out there on the field.”

The teachable moments are typically the most rewarding, said senior Kortnie Riedel, a drum major and flutist.

“It’s not like they happen all the time, but I think each of us at some point in our band career have found ways to help someone else in the band,” she said.

Taking part in the band gave Brown a head start on one of the most difficult transitions most teens experience – the leap from middle to high school.

“When I first started high school we came to band camp two weeks before and I knew people when school started. That’s the reason I plan on playing until I’m done with college,” she said.

Whether the music or the marching is the most difficult to learn mostly comes down to individual aptitudes, but when it all comes together, magic can happen.

“It’s not just notes. It’s like painting a blank canvas with the colors of melodies, the harmonies, the different instruments and the tempos,” said Bekkah Tipton, a sophomore clarinetist.

In the end, learning about the connection of music and movement often overflows into other aspects of the band members’ lives.

“It becomes part of everything I do,” Riedel said. “When I walk home from school, I walk to the tempo of the music on my iPod.”