Band on a run
October 30, 2011
Windsor High School band director Melissa Claeys knew she had a special group way back in the summer.
That special group turned into state champion performers for the Wizards.
The 79 members of the Windsor High School “Pride of Windsor” Marching Band won its second Class 3A state championship in the last four years at the 2011 Colorado Bandmasters Association State Marching Band Championships at the Douglas County School District’s Sports Authority Stadium in Parker on Monday night.
“The last performance was pretty magical,” Claeys said. “It was the best performance that the band has ever done. Since I’ve been here, it was one of the most passionate and emotional performances I’ve ever seen these kids do. When I got down out of the stands, I went down to talk to them and I kind of lost it. It was that emotional for me to see them achieve so much.”
The Wizards turned in their best score ever of 74.40, well ahead of Montezuma-Cortez’s 71.30, Woodland Park’s 70.10, Pueblo County’s 68.60 and Centaurus’ 66 in the top five.
“They just really had great chemistry this year, very similar actually to the band back in 2008,” said Claeys, 32, in her first year as band director after assisting Matt Drase the previous four years. Drase went on a one-year sabbatical and is expected to return next year.
Success isn’t anything new to the “Pride of Windsor.” The marching band won the 3A CBA state title in 2008, placed second in 2009 and was selected to perform in President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade in Washington, D.C., in January 2009. The “Pride of Windsor” placed third at state in 2010.
Windsor’s marching band hasn’t seen this much success since it won back-to-back 2A state championships in 1990-91. Marching band is a class at Windsor High School, and the students get graded for it.
In the other classifications at state, D’Evelyn won the 2A title (61.95) and Cedaredge won the 1A championship (55.75). Weld County school Platte Valley placed third in 1A (53.25).
MAKING A COMMITMENT
“I think the biggest thing was the leadership team made a commitment at the beginning of the season really making this a positive experience no matter what,” Claeys said. “They made realistic goals. They would achieve those goals, and that would create more positive energy. We’d be able to set more goals, and that would create more positive energy. It just kind of fed on itself all the way through the season. Getting better every day was a lot of fun with those kids.”
Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District superintendent Karen Trusler said the school district is proud of the marching band’s efforts.
“That is incredible for all of our band members, the directors, their parents to go down there and achieve the highest score they’ve ever scored before. It’s so deserving,” Trusler said. “They are here early in the morning for their zero hours and on weekends, and are in great physical shape being able to perform those routines, as well as play majestic music. It’s just an awesome tribute and acknowledgment for all of our students.”
Assistant band director Susan Horn said the marching band was ranked first going into the competition and stayed there until the end.
“After entering state prelims ranked first, they held onto first after their prelims performance going into the finals performance,” Horn said. “In their very best performance of the entire year, the ‘Pride of Windsor’ decisively swept the state championships. They took all three caption awards: High Music, High Visual and High General Effect. This is not very common and most definitely puts the exclamation point behind the win.”
It was also the first time Windsor swept the three caption awards at the state championships.
Band parent Sue Kelly, whose son, Thomas, 16, plays bass on the drum line, said the show Claeys selected this year was emotional.
“I love the show. It was very beautiful. The show is titled ‘Lasting Impressions,’ and is a tribute to the heroes in our lives that leave lasting impressions upon us … parents, teachers, families and friends,” Kelly said. “The finale indicates that, ‘We are the lasting impressions of their lives.’ “
Claeys said the hardest part of being a band director is choosing the right material that fits the marching band. Claeys said she loved the content of the show this year.
“Especially when it’s something that is as high profile as this and requires the amount of work that it takes,” Claeys said. “Besides the fact that the kids really jelled this year, I think also the music and what was presented to them as their show really fit them and their ability level and where they were at.”
Power and emotion are two words that describe the show.
“It is a powerful emotionally appealing show, which the band played consistently well throughout the season,” said Kelly, whose two oldest sons, Sean and Daniel, were members of the Wizards’ 2008 CBA state title.
Thomas Kelly, a junior, said it’s important for the band to believe in the show it performs.
“It’s a tribute to anyone that has ever affected your life or shaped any choices that you made that were good,” Thomas said. “I think the fact that if we like the show or not really decides on how well we play it. I feel like all our hard work paid off, and I don’t really regret anything that I did.”
Susan Kelly said the level of dedication is the main reason for Windsor’s success.
“It’s about teamwork and dedication, and they are extremely disciplined. They have a wonderful staff of instructors,” she said. “I think the other part of their success is the level of support the whole band gets from the parents. There’s a lot of fundraising that goes on, and they can use money for instrument repairs, reeds and private lessons. When kids have money through fundraising to take lessons, then they do sound better.”
HARD WORK, LONG DAYS
The marching band started preparing for the season right after the school year ended last spring by getting together for a camp June 1-3. Then it was onto the annual hard core camp at the high school from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. the last week of July and the first week of August. The band practiced from 7-8 a.m. Mondays through Fridays during the school year and from 8-11:30 a.m. every Saturday up until the state competition.
Drum major Gavin Lucas, 17, whose twin brother, CJ, plays on the drumline, said being able to have fun and push one another were keys to winning another state title.
“We went in just really focused and it was literally the most amazingly perfect show that we performed all season,” Gavin said. “We all pushed each other to be the best that we could be, and we really achieved that goal.”
CJ said the marching band went into state expecting to perform well. The Lucas twins were on the 2008 state title team as freshmen performing “The Four Freedoms” show, and their mother, Courtney Lucas, was a member of the Windsor state title marching bands in 1990-91.
“This year, we went in knowing exactly what we had to do to win, and we put our hearts all on the field,” CJ said. “The whole staff was very inspirational this year. We were impacted by a lot of people, and we wanted to make those people proud.”
Lauren Schafer, 17, a visual ensemble section leader, was also a part of the state title marching band as a freshman in 2008 and will go out a champion as a senior.
“There was such a good and positive energy and attitude for everybody,” Lauren said. “It was long hours and long days and it ended up being totally worth it.”
GREAT FROM THE BEGINNING
Windsor’s other drum major, junior Maddie Reynolds, 17, said the band knew it had an opportunity to be successful when the season began.
“We all knew pretty dang well that we had a really, really good chance,” said Maddie, who plays the flute. “We just work really hard, and we had a really great staff this year. We lost Mr. Drase, but we gained five new people coming into our staff and they just helped out a lot. Everybody had 100 percent commitment to what we did.”
Maddie’s dad, John Reynolds, said he’s so proud of his daughter and the whole band.
“They put in so many hours. They’re there every morning during school and during the summer,” Reynolds said. “They’ve all worked very, very hard and it was really worth the effort that they put into it. They peaked wonderfully at the right time over the past several weeks. It was great seeing them all come together. They were just champions. They performed like champions. They carried themselves like champions.”
Claeys said she couldn’t have done this without her assistants. In addition to Claeys and Horn, the assistants who helped the marching band this year were: Brian Horn (drum majors), Danielle Crouch (visual ensemble), Neal Titus (percussion), Logan Doddridge (percussion), Shilo Stroman (arrangements/instructor), Nick Peterson (visual design) and student teacher Cody Krueger (brass technician). Doddridge, Stroman and Crouch are Windsor High School graduates.
“The band jelled, the material fit and the other thing that really helped was the staff as a whole,” Claeys said. “Matt and I both made a commitment to get the best people that we possibly can get to come help us with these kids. Every single one of those names on that list are highly qualified instructors, and Matt and I also realized that we can’t do it all by ourselves. We went out and we got experts in those areas and brought them in.”