Blue Devil band hits a high note

November 17, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Greencastle-Antrim High School's Blue Devils field marching band recently completed a banner year, winning seven of eight competitions, and placing second in the eighth.

According to drum major Alison Ervin, 17, of Greencastle, the band has improved a lot since last year, when it had three competitive wins.

"The band's attitude made it possible," she said. "They listen more. They have more respect. It makes band fun, more like a family."


Band Director Sam Forney of Greencastle said the band was named United States Scholastic Band Association (USSBA) champion two years ago.

"One-third were seniors that year," Forney said. "Last year was a learning year; there were lots of younger kids."

As drum major, Ervin is in charge of the 60-member band when it's on the field. She corrects the members' form and conducts the music.

"Mr. Forney makes sure the marching is right," she said.

The field marching band plays at halftime at football games, in local parades and in competitions.

Ervin, a senior, has enjoyed her two years as drum major.

"The kids listen, and everyone looks up to you," she said.

Assistant drum major Brandon Tresler, 16, of State Line, Pa., said band was "a lot more exciting this year. We picked up the momentum at the beginning this year. Everyone wanted to come to practice."

When the band is performing, Tresler, a junior, plays the trumpet, then conducts when the band turns around.

"I'm the understudy," he said.

On Nov. 1, the band won the Pennsylvania State Championship in Coatesville, Pa.

In Allentown, Pa., on Nov. 9, the Blue Devils competed in the two-day USSBA All-States Championships against 80 bands from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Each band performed for 15 minutes.

The Blue Devils played "A Tribute to Steven Reineke," which was perfected during the season at five football games and during the previous seven competitions.

Ervin explained how the band learned the routine: "We learned the drill first, then practiced the music and put it together so we'd know where the music fits with the moves."

Forney added that it was a new type of show.

"There were no breaks, we went right through it," he said. "It's taxing for the trumpets because they play the whole way through."

"I was Jell-O by the end" of the Allentown competition, Ervin said. "It was so cold, I couldn't feel my hands."

The band came in second.

"Only one-tenth of a point separated us from the first-place band," Forney said. "It was a heartbreaker in a way," especially because the band thought it had clinched the championship when it received two out of five special awards.

"Those two, music and overall effect, account for 80 percent of the score," Forney explained. Overall effect includes the color guard, drill and marching, as well as the music.

"The other kids said our faces just fell," Tresler added.

Percussion came in second in its category and color guard placed third.

"We had a very young guard this year," said Forney, who has directed the marching band since 1983. "Nine of the 14 are new. I was very happy with how the color guard has progressed. They won three in a row. Percussion was strong from the beginning; they won four of the seven competitions."

Ervin received drum major awards in competitions in Hedgesville, W.Va., and Martinsburg, W.Va. She plays first flute in concert band and saxophone in the jazz band. After graduation, she plans to attend Chatham College in Pittsburgh to become a physician's assistant.

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