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Perryville High School marching band tops state competition

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Winning state championships is old hat now to Perryville High School's marching band, a distinction its members and directors proudly accept.

Making this the band's seventh title since 2004, the Panthers Marching Band won its fifth consecutive Maryland State 1A Championship for high school marching bands earlier this month.

"Our shows are very unique," band director Jill Welsheimer said. "We try to do theater out on the field."

The 37-member band competed against the state's best marching bands the first weekend of November at Towson University and came out on top in the 1A division for bands with 40 or less members.

The weekend after that the band took their act to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis for the national competition and placed fifth — nothing to sneeze at when competing against the best of the best.

When Welsheimer says the band performs "theater," she isn't joking.

The band puts on a full performance with a story, actors and fantastic music as the soundtrack.

This year the band used Disney World as its backdrop, inspired by an upcoming gig in March where PHS will march down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom as part of a park event many bands around the country auditioned for.

"We try to put a theatrical spin on it to make people interested in what they see, to keep the watcher involved," Welsheimer said.

During the performance, one band member "transformed" into a kid will do whatever it takes to reach Cinderella's Castle, facing obstacles along the way, such as the magic brooms from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," being sucked down under the ocean and encountering Belle from "Beauty and the Beast."

All the while, the band played Disney favorites "Part of Your World," from "The Little Mermaid," "Night on Bald Mountain," from "Fantasia" and the theme from "Beauty and the Beast."

Previous years the band has done a "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme, Batman and James Bond, with a "heist" going on as the band played, Welsheimer said.

The themes Welsheimer and the band choose are "designed for anybody to get," she said. "You don't have to be involved in music. You don't have to know classical music. We try to make it for anybody who just understands music."

It's also important for the band members to enjoy the music they perform, Welsheimer continued.

"If it's something they don't enjoy, it's not going to be fun for them," she said.

With the big competitions over, the PHS marching band isn't taking a break.

Not only do they have the Disney World performance to prepare for, but they've also applied to be the presidential inauguration parade in January.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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