Drum Major Shailyn Martinec and member Brianna Proctor were in complete harmony as they described their experience competing in marching band competitions for Cochranton Junior-Senior High School. "It's a rush unlike any other," both students said.
Cochranton won the Lakeshore Marching Band Association (LMBA) Open Class championship last Saturday at Veterans Stadium in Erie. They set a school and LMBA record by winning the championship for the 18th consecutive time.
It was Cochranton's first year in the association's largest class. The band attained an overall score of 90.75, which was the highest awarded to any of the 16 bands competing in all four divisions of classes. The competition includes Open, AAA, AA and A classes, with Open being the most students and Class A being the least.
Ron Abate, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Contest Judges (PFCJ), said while he could describe the Cochranton band as a shark in a fish bowl, the band does not win competitions automatically. "The band members and everyone that works with them earn the scores they achieve," Abate said.
Seven PFCJ judges rate the bands as they compete according to their performance musically, visually and the show's general effect. "The general effect is rated on how the show relates to the audience," Abate said. "The best shows combine music and visual qualities to elicit emotions in the audience.
"Some bands are very strong in one or two of the categories but may be lacking in just one area," Abate said. "Cochranton has found that successful formula of perfecting every category.
"The Cochranton marching band program has been strong for many years and has remained strong under the leadership of band director Carl Miller," Abate said. "Part of their long-standing success is that they have a home-grown formula where they know their students well and build on the students' strengths."
Martinec and Proctor said once they got involved in marching band competitions, they were hooked. "We practice as much as a sports team, but sports teams get a lot more time to compete," Proctor said. "We work so hard and then it all boils down to seven minutes to perform."
"I joined the marching band in ninth grade, but before that I was more sports-oriented," Martinec said. "I found my love of music in marching band, and I wouldn't change a thing."
Martinec and Proctor describe the moment they begin to perform their show as full of excitement and energy. That energy apparently extends off the field and into the bleachers.
"The band had an electrifying performance and the crowd was on its feet by the end of the show," band director Miller said. The 2015 show, "The Looking Glass," used visual effects with mirrors that conveyed to the audience thoughts about reflection and shattering those images, Miller said.
Once you take part in marching band competitions, it's in your blood, according to Dianna Marusko, who has been a tabulator for PFCJ for 30 years. She has more than 30 years of experience participating and teaching color guard and drum and bugle Corps units. "I stay involved because I enjoy the experience and I think it keeps me young."
Marusko has witnessed many students who participate in marching band go on to be very successful in life. "They have to learn to juggle academics with extracurriculars," she said. "They learn how to budget their time and the importance of being on time for practice."
Two PENNCREST School District bands also took home high honors from last Saturday's LMBA championships. Maplewood Junior-Senior High School won first place in Class A with a score of 82.25, while Saegertown Junior-Senior High School finished second in that class with a score of 79.65.
Jamie Gardner, Maplewood director of bands, was thrilled with his band's first place finish. Despite being the smallest band in the LMBA and being heavily comprised of younger members, Gardner said, the group not only had the high score in Class A but also outscored all Class AA bands.
"This is our sixth championship in the past seven years as we took last year off from competing with the absence of color guard staff," Gardner said.
Lorri Drumm can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
You can help
The Cochranton High School Marching Band and Music Boosters host their ninth annual community auction to benefit the marching band on Dec. 5 at Cochranton Community Church. The preview and food stand open at 4 p.m. The auction begins at 6.