Two Crawford County schools won marching band championships recently, but their title-winning experiences this season couldn’t be any more different.
Saegertown won its first-ever Lakeshore Marching Band Association (LMBA) title at the association’s 30th annual championships last Saturday at Veterans Stadium in Erie. Cochranton, meanwhile, won its 17th consecutive title and 25th-ever championship — both LMBA records.
Cochranton and Saegertown were the only Crawford County schools to compete at this year’s LMBA championships, which included 14 bands competing in four classes based on their size.
Saegertown has been led by Instrumental Music Instructor Patrick Baldwin for the past 14 years. The Panthers have been competing in the LMBA since 2005, and they finally reached the pinnacle on Saturday.
Baldwin, who didn’t compete in marching band as a student, said a lot of work pushed Saegertown toward its championship-winning night.
“It’s just been nine years of learning; a learning process for the design team and for the kids,” he said. “(We’ve been) establishing a tradition and expectations for the students and developing it all over for nine years. And it just clicked this year.”
Saegertown, behind 22 musicians and a five-person color guard, competed in Class A, the smallest of four LMBA classes. Class A cannot have more than 29 total members.
To win on Saturday, Saegertown finished with 80.80 points to just edge out Union City (80.20), Erie All-City (79.88) and Girard (79.88). This came after Saegertown lost to Erie All-City by 0.20 points on Oct. 18 in Harbor Creek and finished third to both Girard and Erie All-City on Sept. 13 in McDowell.
“We didn’t change anything; just kept pushing, pushing and pushing and getting the kids to own the show,” Baldwin said. “It was a nail biter. It was the closest Class A has been in a long time.”
The bands are judged in three categories, called captions — Music, General Effect and Visual. Winning both Music and General Effect was exactly what Saegertown needed to clinch the championship.
“It (Class A) was extremely close all season,” Baldwin said. “We had also won the Music caption, so we knew we were in the race.”
Saegertown’s theme this year was “We Are.” The show was based off a poem that Baldwin wrote specifically for the show. The poem talks about the today’s generation of students, describing them as “the young,” “the courageous,” “the hope” and “the future.”
Band members Jared Shaffer, Kaity Gage, Kristi Stoyer and Jesse Stewart narrated the poem throughout the show. Other soloists included Krissi West and Ashley Reisinger.
Elizabeth Mascetti is the band’s color guard instructor, and Kristin McGowan is the percussion instructor.
A tradition of excellence
Continuity has played an important role in Cochranton’s years of success, and a youthful group benefited this season from experienced instructors and directors — and, of course, some hard work from the band members.
“There’s a tradition of excellence here,” said Carl Miller, Cochranton’s marching band director. “The kids work extremely hard and we have a staff that’s been around for a long time, too.”
Miller has been at Cochranton for 25 years. During his tenure, the Cardinals have won 22 LMBA championships, including 21 in the last 22 years.
Color Guard Instructor Jim Wentworth has been with Cochranton for at least 30 years, while Assistant Band Director Rachel Miller has spent at least 15 years at Cochranton.
While a championship could easily be assumed every year by Cochranton at this point, Miller said that’s not the mindset he and his staff impress upon the kids. Expectations were to win, but with just four seniors and five juniors this year, everyone didn’t know how things would work out.
“I try to tell our kids to not take it for granted and take in the moment,” Miller said. “A lot of schools don’t get to experience (a championship). We’ve been very lucky to experience that.”
Cochranton competed in Class AA, which consists of 30 to 42 members. The Cardinals swept all three caption awards while finishing with a score of 90.38 — the second-highest score (Class AAA North East, 91.93) of all 14 bands competing in the championships.
Northwestern finished second in AA with 88.28, followed by Seneca with 80.63.
Cochranton’s 2014 theme was “Just Breathe” and included four movements dealing with breathing. It featured uniforms, flags and props in various shades of blue. The show included solos by Erika Nunamaker (trumpet), Rachel Hall (trumpet), Nate Huey (french horn) and Justin Schreck (baritone).
The band is also under the leadership of Assistant Color Guard Instructor Patty Kantz, and Andy Wolfe and Tim McGarvey, music and marching instructors. This year’s music was arranged by Gary Ziek, the percussion arrangements were done by CJ Lyons and the drill design was done by Carl and Rachel Miller. The band was under the field leadership of senior drum major Abby Weagraff.
Cochranton also finished first in AA in the other four LMBA events it competed in this season — its eighth undefeated LMBA season in a row. The band also took first place at a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association show on Oct. 4 at Moon High School, which is located about a half hour northwest of Pittsburgh.
“They worked very hard,” Miller said. “A lot of these kids are marching after their parents, brothers and sisters were in the program. We’re very blessed to be part of such a supportive school and community.”
Cochranton band benefit
The Cochranton High School Marching Band and Music Boosters host their eighth annual Community Auction to benefit the CHS Band Marching Band on Dec. 6 at Cochranton Community Church. The preview and food stand open at 4 p.m., and the auction begins at 6.