Memorial’s band season was no joke


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Edmond Memorial’s marching band at their state contest.

Olivia Lane and Adeline Gruen

Edmond Memorial High School’s marching band had quite an eventful season. Ranking first in Moore, third in Yukon and second in Mustang, the marching band’s 2021 show, the Quinntessential Joke (themed around DC character Harley Quinn) was off to a successful start.

Choosing a show theme was important after 2019’s poorly designed show, Game On, a show themed around video games. However this season there were two years to prepare a new theme due to COVID-19 affecting the organization of the school year, and the directors took their time and did their best with a new design team. 

“I sat down with our design staff – who was new – and we started bouncing ideas off of each other about a theme and music that would fit that theme. It was kind of a collaborative effort between everybody,” Memorial’s head band director Jeff Jahnke said. “My input was more of a music based, ‘Okay, I see where you’re going with this idea, how about this music?’ and they would throw ideas out.”

Although the show was new, that doesn’t mean the road was easy. After experiencing many changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, head drum major Lillian Banks noticed the band having a hard time adjusting to full time band rehearsals.

“I think that we kind of all slowed down from COVID-19 and had a really hard time speeding up again like we needed to. Everyone was just not mentally ready for this year’s competition,” Banks said.

Even though things were tough at first, it was clear that students understood that the stakes were much higher than they had ever been before, and much more effort was required. Sophomore percussionist Ian Humphreys could feel the pressure.

“This year was definitely a lot better structured and I feel like there was a lot more effort from the students this year,” Humphreys said.

The band staff started to transition the show into more of a visual experience starting with the 2020 show, Gothic, and continued that through this year.

“I think we did some things as a program that we had never done before, and we added a great deal of visual expectation with choreography that we have not done before, and when you do something like that there is going to be a transitional process. The more we do that the better we will get at it,” Jahnke said.

Memorial’s band had a great season this year, and has been able to win some of the highest rankings of the past four seasons. However, they mostly stayed within their region for contests this year and didn’t venture out into the Tulsa area. When they eventually did for the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association 6A state contest (OBA), they were thrown back into reality as they didn’t make finals.

“Everyone [other schools] got better and I don’t think we were ready for it. We hadn’t really competed at any really big contests until OBA. Then we were just slapped in the face with reality,” Banks said.

The band has made finals since 2002, so when they weren’t announced, it sent a shock through everyone.

“Just being frozen on the field with all of us standing there and waiting. I turned over and the color guard directors were sobbing. Coming back with everyone crying and you can’t do anything about it to make it better. It was just the worst,” Banks said.

Even though OBA didn’t go how the band and staff wanted, they were really proud of how the season went overall.

“I think the students gave a really good effort. We just had one day that didn’t go the way we wanted, unfortunately. But as far as how the season went, for the most part, everyone enjoyed the process, and that’s the most important thing because that’s way longer than a performance at any of the contests,” Jahnke said. 

Going into the performance, the students were looking forward to performing at finals as it added a touch of mystery to their show. They weren’t really planning on ending it early. But after performing and looking over their scores and judges tapes, the directors realized that there were improvements needed to be made in certain areas. 

“I think we have exposed some areas, where, as a program, we need to grow from an individual musicianship standpoint and individual visual skill standpoint with our members,” Jahnke said. 

The band wasn’t able to have all of their drill until two weeks before OBA due to delays, and the guard didn’t have access to their choreography until a week before. 

“I thought we did good, but we didn’t have as many things cleaned as we should have,” freshman baritone player Matthew Van Dam said. 

Despite all of the struggles the band has gone through with OBA and transitioning back to competing, the students were still able to relax and have some fun together. The environment created by band makes an important dynamic that many students need in order to thrive. Band is a home away from home that the students can go to when they need support, or when they have a bad day and need a laugh.

“I like having the family at school that I can always go back to. My home is the band room whenever I’m at school. I just love the family vibe that we get and all the friends we can make,” Banks said.

Even though the band didn’t make finals at OBA, they still had a productive season filled with growth and amazing moments. 

Contact Olivia Lane and Adeline Gruen at [email protected]