Kicking off competitive season, marching band spends long hours rehearsing on the weekend

September 28, 2022 — by Saachi Jain
Photo by Anthony Gonzales
The band performs a run through of the show during a Saturday rehearsal.
The band, which has over 175 members this season, worked on their show titled “Blossom.”

On a recent hot Saturday, the sun beat down on the 175 members of the marching band as they rehearsed Niccoló Paganini’s “Caprice No. 24” for this fall’s show: “Blossom.”

Besides rehearsing three times a week, members spend Saturdays learning new choreography and doing drills on the football field. Though it varies on a weekly basis, Saturday rehearsals usually begin at 9 a.m. and end between 5 to 9 p.m. Sections such as percussion, winds/brass and guard hold their own rehearsals during the week. The sections practice on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. in addition to Saturday.

In past years, the band has only been able to perform a couple movements of their show at their first couple of competitions. However, they are currently on track to perform their entire 9-minute program at a competition at Cupertino High School on Oct. 8, which is the first time they’ve done so in over seven years.

“A lot of our staff come on weekends, and we can dive into learning the drill and choreography,” said senior Alison Okuno, who is a drum major along with senior Petr Tupitsyn and junior Gabriel Shyh.

Many members of the band find Saturdays more productive due to the ability to focus only on rehearsal rather than think about homework and other extracurricular activities that occupy time during the week.

A typical weekend morning begins with physical and musical warmups, which are led by the three drum majors. 

“We might spend the morning refining our marching technique and reviewing Movement 1 drill and choreography, for example,” Okuno said. “The afternoon might be spent learning Movement 2 drill and putting it to music [marching and playing].”

Long rehearsal days allow members of each section to spend much more time together, especially during their one hour lunch break. Students are permitted to leave campus for the break before rehearsal restarts at 1:45 p.m., and many instrument sections spend the hour together.  

Junior Edmond Hsu, a trombone player, noticed the close bond that formed between his section in a short time.

“After our full section dinner, where everyone met the freshmen, they immediately felt like any other bandmate I’ve had before,” Hsu said. “For my section, being around each other and working with each other so much has created a really tight bond in a short time.”

Band director Jason Shiuan finds that each week is different, and the productivity of Saturday rehearsals varies. For example, extreme weather, such as the recent heat wave, can result in a less productive practice session. But he maintains his goal of students taking pride and ownership in their hard work, as well as what they produce in the end.

“We spend all these hours on this activity, and it’s not only for ourselves,” Shiuan said. “It’s to be able to share it with others, and I always hope that the students are believing in what they do and are able to share that with others in a meaningful and impactful way.”

Writing the show from scratch in collaboration with other music directors, Shiuan tries to communicate two messages with each show: one directed at an audience who is only seeing it once, and another for the students who are putting on the show. The second message is emphasized throughout the season, and is the mentality backing all the hours of rehearsal that take place. 

“In this show, it’s a lot about ‘you reap what you sow,’” Shiuan said. “The amount you put in is the amount you are going to get out. This kind of concept is what we want students to think about, and hope it will help them grow as much as they can.”