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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Marching band closes out season with sweepstakes win at Folsom Fall Festival

Isabelle Gecils
Drum majors and guard captains return with trophies after the awards ceremony.

When the name Saratoga High School thundered across the stadium as the winner of the overall sweepstakes of the Folsom Fall Festival on Nov. 4, proud parents and band students alike whooped and hollered as they savored an end-of-the-season victory. 

Later, as members of the band enjoyed a late-night pizza and hot cocoa celebration, they snapped group pictures of the long lineup of shining, tall trophies.

The school’s marching band competed at Folsom High’s annual field show for their last competition of the 2023 season, placing first overall out of 10 schools with a score of 93.44. The band won every individual category — woodwinds, brass, color guard, general effect, visual performance and percussion — except field conducting, in which they placed eighth. According to junior drum major Aiden Chen, this result may have been because judges often prioritize cohesiveness of conducting, which was more challenging for the band’s four drum majors.

One week earlier, the band competed at the Foothill Band Review hosted at Foothill High on Oct. 28, where they placed first in the 6A division with a score of 92.42 and second overall in the competition. Notably, in the individual categories of their division, the band placed first in percussion and woodwinds and also won music sweepstakes for having the highest overall score in music.

Comparing the 2023 season to the 2022 season, senior drum major Gabriel Shyh — a drum major in both seasons — found that the band significantly improved in their ability to efficiently learn and retain new material. Although Shyh wishes the band was able to put more time into practicing marching this season, he said he understands that preparation for Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SWE)’s acceptance into the 2024 California All-State Conference took priority for music director Jason Shiuan and the music program as a whole.

“I am extremely proud of the marching band, especially the Class of ‘24 for sticking through the pandemic during freshman year and cementing a legacy that will impact the years to come,” Shyh said. “I am confident that next year’s groups will continue to be successful and make the program proud.”

Much of this season’s success was also supported by the crew of parent volunteers who ran logistical work. On each competition day, the parents organized dinner for all 205 members, drove the numerous equipment trucks and chaperoned the students on their respective buses and at overnight competitions. Throughout the season, volunteer parents put in dozens of hours during performance weeks preparing uniforms to ensure they were ready for use for following competitions.

“The cliche is that it takes a village,” Shiuan said. “The parents are super crucial because they do the behind-the-scenes work that usually gets no recognition. So it’s really amazing that we have so many parents who [are happy to] jump in to help.”

The student leadership team also proved pivotal in keeping the season running smoothly. In total, the leadership team consisted of 40 students who were either drum majors, guard captains, section leaders or managers. They ensured band members stayed on track during rehearsals and managed internal tasks, often facilitating music sectionals and student collaborations that the directors could not individually supervise.

Now that the marching season is over, the band has split into three separate ensembles — Freshman Band, Symphonic Band and SWE — which are each preparing their own concert pieces for the annual winter concert on Dec. 14. In addition, SWE is working on their repertoire for the California All-State Music Education Conference (CASMEC) and holds after-school rehearsals two or three times a month.

Looking ahead to next season, Chen hopes to implement changes in how the leadership team manages the group so they can improve the productivity of rehearsals from the beginning of the season. He felt that a major weakness during this season was that the drum majors didn’t know how much to expect from a significantly larger group than the 176 members in last season, so they were less efficient in setting marching foundations for the year.

“Eventually, we did end up becoming a lot more focused and intentional with our rehearsal and our reps, but the band had to completely switch the way they were doing things [when competitions were getting closer],” Chen said. “Next year, we’ll definitely be making our expectations clear from the very beginning, so that [members] know the standard of rehearsal etiquette that we demand of them and ourselves.”

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