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November 13, 2013

FHS marching band finished in third place at state competition

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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FHS marching band finished in third place at state competition
Rebecca Phoenix, a Ferndale High School junior color guard member, performs during the FHS marching band’s performance Nov. 2 in the Michigan Competing Bands Association state competition at Ford Field in Detroit. The Golden Eagles band took third place in the Flight III division, its 11th top-three finish in as many years.

FERNDALE — After years of continued success and state titles, Ferndale High School Band Director Elon Jamison said the school’s marching band has a lot of expectations laid upon them each season.

On Nov. 2, the marching band took third place in the Flight III division of the Michigan Competing Bands Association state competition at Ford Field in Detroit. Since 2003, the Golden Eagles have placed third or better in the state competition, winning seven state titles in that time frame.

Taking third place after finishing second last year may seem like a step back for some, but Jamison said that is definitely not the case.

“Sometimes, people in our community get so conditioned to us winning first place, if we don’t, and take second or third, it is like a tragedy and people have a tendency to say we lost our edge, but that is not so,” Jamison said. “This is a very competitive activity, and you can not always come out on top competing against some really good groups. We did incredibly well, and in some ways, we were better than we used to be when we won, but that is the nature of this kind of competition.

“We prioritize our jobs to be as good as we possibly can be and meeting standards of being better than the year before,” he said.

Across three categories — music, visual and general effect — FHS finished with a total of 85.4 points. Stevensville Lakeshore took second with 85.5 points, and reigning state champs, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, took first place again with 90.3 points.

The Golden Eagles finished second in music and visual behind Reeths-Puffer, but Stevensville Lakeshore took the edge in the general effect category, which was enough to push them up the final standings.

“General effect is kind of the wow and interest factor, and sometimes what the audience finds appealing does not translate to the judges enjoying it and thinking it is an appealing product,” Jamison said. “It is not cut and dry, but the reality is we didn’t design our show as well as we could (have) and should have, and we ended up in third place. But this is the one area that the students have the least control over.”

The theme for the FHS marching band’s performance this year was “End to End,” as the group started on one end of the football field and made their way across the field to the other end, with music and motions being similar on the two ends of the field.

Senior drum major Joe Milobar said the theme was not only an interesting choice visually, but it also was symbolic of the band’s journey from the beginning of the season in the spring to the end in November.

“It represented us as a band starting at one end of the season and moving to the other end, and seeing the growth and progressive movement,” Milobar said. “What I saw in the production of the show was not just the actual marching and playing, but the growth within the individuals and the group from the beginning of our journey to the end of our journey.”

Jamison said percussion players began the season in March, rehearsing once a week before the color guard began rehearsing in April. By the time June rolled around, the entire band was rehearsing two days a week for the rest of the season.

During an August camp in Traverse City, the band spent five days rehearsing from 8:30 a.m. until nightfall, with only a few small breaks in between.

To finally see the final product at Ford Field was gratifying, Milobar said.

“It was a relief to be done, as it had been a long time coming with a lot of set backs, and (on Nov. 2) we went out on that field and gave them the best show we could do, and I think the audience saw that and appreciated that,” he said. “We have accomplished a lot of things we haven’t been able to do in the past, and we definitely incorporated a lot of new aspects into what we are doing. We focused on school pride and the pride of Ferndale, and I think that is really important coming from such a large group of students in our school.”

While placing at the state competition is validation for a season well done, Jamison said his band rarely talked about winning trophies, but rather about doing the best they could.

“I think scoring and all that stuff is interesting to talk about, and if you are a competitive band you want to do well scoring and compete as well as you can, but we don’t spend a lot of time talking about that,” he said. “We focus on quality time spent together as a family, which we see ourselves as, and on time spent honing our craft, and (the students) have done that incredibly well.

“We made something that was only eight minutes long, but it will last longer than that in our memories.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.