What is big, brassy and has more than 240 moving parts?
DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / November 4, 1998
The Hahnville High School Tiger Marching Band.
It’s flashy and flamboyant. Pomp and pageantry at its finest. And footballfever is not the only reason fans flock to Hahnville High School football games. Some go just to catch the halftime show.When the band performs, it looks like magic. But band members will tellyou it’s a lot of dedication and hard practice, practice, practice! The work begins during a two-week band camp before school starts in August. It’s here band students will begin to learn the routine it willperform at Friday night football games and in competition at fall marching band festivals around the state.
This year’s program begins with an Earth, Wind and Fire medley, which the band performed at Hahnville’s first home game. Each week a new number isadded, new steps are learned and the Friday night’s halftime presentation is a little longer. By the end of football season and just in time forcompetition, the show has reached its full 10-12 minutes of showmanship.
The 1998 marching band is not the largest ever fielded at Hahnville High.
Several years ago, under the direction of David Rosenthal, the ranks swelled to almost 300.
Four years ago Jim Trant came aboard to assist Rosenthal. As headmarching band director, it is his responsibility to handle all aspects of the band’s festival show from selecting music to making sure all 480 feet are in the right place at the right time.
When choosing the music for the season, Trant says he looks for a jazzy flavor to fit the flowing choreography he favors. Gone are the structuredshapes and military style marching of yesteryear. The routine is one ofgraceful movements and pleasing designs.
Gone also are the days when the band director had to bark instructions to musicians on a megaphone. Rehearsals, too, are high-tech now. Trantcommunicates during his biweekly rehearsals on an open field in front of the high school by means of a headset and sideline speakers.
Derrick Bradley, band quartermaster, says, “I have to make sure the equipment is set up. I make sure Mr. Trant is on mic. Without us the bandcouldn’t go on.”Assisted by student teacher Kevin Estoque, Trant walks among the band members as they march, listening and watching, correcting and polishing the routine, talking into his headset.
“Go back two sets,” he says, stopping the music. “Listen for the horn andalto line. If you can’t hear it, back off.”With a cymbal flourish and the twirl of a drumstick, the music swells again. Abruptly, walking to the sidelines, Trant stops the music again.”Freeze! Don’t move!,” he says, “You look like a crippled centipede. Fixthis curve.”Band members adjust their alignment. The drum major gives the downbeatand they begin to march again. Once again, Trant stops the music.”You’re just walking around the field,” he says, “Trumpets in the middle, what was that? Let’s get this together. “Fifteen minutes before the end of the two-hour rehearsal, Trant climbs up to a platform high above the field to watch the end results.
“Make this count,” he says. “I don’t want to see one person not atattention or shuffling around. Let’s see if we can do it all the waythrough.”The band was to perform this latest segment to its routine at the next day’s ball game.
“Be in your places at 5:00 tomorrow,” Trant says, as he begins his last- minute instructions to the group. No jewelry, no dirty shoes, no smudgymakeup, hair up. Your shoes will be checked, your instrument will bechecked. Your hair will be checked.”It takes nine school buses to transport the band, dance team, color guard and chaperons to away games.
Because of the size of the band, Trant says he relies on parents to stay organized.
“We have lots of good parental support,” Trant says, speaking of the more than 200 dues-paying members of the band booster club.
Thirty or more of those parents volunteer to accompany the band to away games and festivals to make sure students, uniforms and equipment are all in the right place at the right time. Parents must also enforcediscipline on the buses and provide drinks for band members during games.
It’s Friday. Game time. Decked out in sparkling white and purple uniformsand trimmed plumed hats, the band marches to their section of the bleachers to the cadence from the drum corps.
A brass ensemble leads the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and Hahnville’s fight song is played intermittently throughout the game to inspire the team and the fans during the high points and the disappointments.
But halftime is when the week’s hard work really pays off.
“When you get on the field and see all the people, it’s amazing,” says Kali Fahrig, a freshman clarinetist.
The halftime show begins when the Hahnville High Highsteppers take the field to perform accompanied by the band’s rendition of “Sgt. Pepper’sLonely Heart Club Band” followed by the full program with a band and color guard that seems to take up the whole football field.
On Friday nights the show is in the hands of the three drum majors: Ronald Brimmer, Tommy Faucheux and Leah Rhodes.
Faucheux grew up going to football games and dreamed of being an HHS drum major.
Rhodes agrees, “I really like music. I’ve excelled at the clarinet. I missplaying my instrument, but I’d rather be drum major.””It’s one of the largest bands in the state,” says Brimmer. “That’s why Iwanted to be in it.”To attain the coveted position of drum major, band students must go through a series of auditions, conduct an audition tape and show their proficiency in beating time patterns and obeying voice commands.
The drum majors say they began training for their jobs at the two west bank middle schools that feed Hahnville High, Eual J. Landry in Hahnvilleand J.B. Martin in Paradis.Because of the interest in band in those schools, Trant expects the size of the Hahnville High band to remain relatively constant over the next few years.
“The lower schools have good instruction,” he says. “I’m very pleased withthe students coming out of the feeder schools.”Auditions are held each year to place incoming students as well as returning students in one of three concert bands at Hahnville High: Cadet, Concert and Symphonic. Students must also audition each year for chairpositions.
All band students must participate in marching band except for members of the volleyball team, who practice at the same time as the summer band camp, and members of the football and dance teams. Cheerleaders areexpected to march during the halftime show.
As football season winds down, the band is preparing for festival competition. It was scheduled to appear at the District VII competition atNicholls State University in Thibodaux on Oct. 27. In November, the bandcompetes at the Sulphur High School Festival in Sulphur and the Louisiana Showcase of Marching Bands at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette.