In the 235-year history of the Friends School of Baltimore, there hasn’t been a fight song for the athletic program. On Friday, Friends junior Christopher Armstrong changed all that with the help of Morgan State’s marching band.
Armstrong, who was initially approached by sports information director Ken Zalis to create a theme for the athletic program, had been working on the project for roughly two months. The end result impressed Zalis so much that he requested the anthem be performed publicly for the first time at Friends’ “Scarlet and Gray Day” — an annual celebration to celebrate the lower, middle and upper schools — by Morgan State’s band.
“It’s a true honor,” said Armstrong, who has aspirations to one day become a film composer. “Going to Friends and seeing Morgan State play at all of our pep rallies and perform and just knowing the legacy and history, knowing that they’re going to be at the [Macy’s] Thanksgiving Day Parade this year and having the opportunity to write for them is just surreal.
“I’m just so grateful for the experience and for the help that I’ve had on this project.”
Morgan State’s band has played at Scarlet and Gray Day for the past 17 years due to the connection of band director Melvin Miles and Friends Director of Academics Greta Rutstein being neighbors. Friends works out a Friday afternoon each year for Morgan State to participate.
“When I was the middle school principal I was like ‘Where’s the fun at the pep rally,'” said Rutstein. “There’s no fun. So, then I added golf carts that we decorated and then I thought that we need a band. Melvin Miles has been the band director that whole time. Every year we work this out. We work around his homecoming — obviously we can’t do it on Morgan State homecoming weekend.”
The connections run even deeper with Armstrong and Miles, with the latter having been friends with the former’s grandfather and having known his great-grandmother. Armstrong personally called Miles and asked for the band to play the fight song at the pep rally.
“He sent it [the song] to me and we looked at it and talked about it,” Miles said. “I coached him a little bit on the orchestration and we decided we would do it.”
The plan for the school is to play the fight song during the majority of its athletic events, breaking it out right away on Saturday for Friends’ 12 scheduled home games — which includes middle school — that run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Zalis has even bigger plans for the school’s fight song in the future.
“We love the fight song,” Zalis said. “We’ll hear it on everything that we produce probably during the next couple of years, especially over the next week or so as we kind of show the Baltimore community what Friends is all about.”
For the athletic program at Friends and the three schools that it’s composed of, the song gives the school a further sense of community and identity.
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“It shows the depth of our school,” athletic director Kara Carlin said. “It’s not just about sports, it’s about how we include everybody in the community. We can come together around everything — music, theatre — the plays sell out every year and we have fans at every game. It shows the depth and breadth of our school.”