WHAT DOES IT take to transform a freshman musician into a member of an award-winning marching band such as the one at Severna Park High School? It takes a dynamic director, supportive parents, and a drum major with a big heart. Oh, and lots of duct tape.
When beginning marchers first take the field, they don't carry instruments; they clutch rolls of duct tape. As they move from spot to spot, they mark their location with pieces of tape so they can find the spot again. This is one of the strategies that produces a top-notch band for Severna Park band director R. Thomas Powell.
Under his guidance, the marching band has won three state championships, and it's always expected to take first or second place in its size category in tournaments across the mid-Atlantic region.
In addition to the marching band, Powell, who has been at Severna Park for 35 years, directs the school's concert band, stage ensemble, string orchestra and full orchestra.
"I'm the most satisfied guy in the world," he says. "I'm doing all I've ever wanted to do." His wife, Joan, shares his enthusiasm, helping to chaperone band trips and summer band camp at Frostburg State University.
That's where freshmen learn strategies for success - on and off the field. Included in each freshman's packet of required reading is a list of rules, which cover everything from respect for leaders to "cover your mouth when you yawn."
Marchers carry small notebooks crammed with choreographic directions for the new show, slung across their shoulders like quivers filled with ammunition against a memory lapse. At camp, freshmen learn that a little rain or heat won't interfere with marching.
The 90-plus-member band practices music indoors and marching outdoors. At the beginning, the only sound on the field is Powell's voice, counting the cadence. Then, the percussion players take up the beat. Not until everyone has mastered marching, do they carry their instruments.
Powell's right-hand woman is drum major Katelyn Forstell, daughter of Brian and Jennifer Forstell of Manhattan Beach. The 17-year-old senior, who plays bass clarinet, alto and tenor sax and piano, says, "The experienced people know what's going on. You try to be a little nicer to the freshmen; they get nervous. You have to be kind of mommy and daddy for the first few months or so."
To be drum major, "you have to step out of your shell and become a leader," says Katelyn, who plans to be a chemical engineer.
Drum majors are selected when they are juniors. "Your junior year you're the junior drum major," Katelyn says. "You do some backfield conducting; you're the understudy, there just in case anything happens."
Danny Boyd is this year's junior drum major. Experienced marchers, called Key People or "KPs," help the drum major oversee new students.
Band Boosters are adult volunteers who, such as director's assistants Nancy Huhn and Anita Stahl, are dedicated to their jobs. Stahl, whose son graduated 13 years ago, says, "We stayed; they left."
Some adult volunteers aren't parents at all. Band front director Linda Crosby, who makes sure the equipment is on the field, is a former band member who graduated in 1979, and "never left."
The marching band's fall season of competition begins Sept. 28 in Lake Forest High in Delaware and ends in early November at the Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championships in Scranton, Pa.
On Oct. 12, Severna Park holds its annual Tournament of Bands. In the spring, the band presents a festival concert and marches in the Winchester, Va., Apple Blossom Festival and Glen Burnie Memorial Day parades.
During the school year, Band Boosters help prepare and deliver subs, pizzas and Krispy Kreme doughnuts to raise money. Homemade holiday cookies will be sold Dec. 13.
The funds raised help finance transporting the band, purchasing uniforms, alterations, and maintaining instruments and technical equipment.
The first sub sale is Sept. 28. Orders will be taken until Sept. 23. Subs are $4 and are delivered to the buyer. To order subs, call 410-384-7292 or see a band member.
Band information: Colleen Duffy, 410-544-0370 .