ActivePaper Archive AIR ACADEMY BAND - Colo Spgs Gazette, 10/12/2016


School’s marching band takes first place at Legacy Marching Festival


Destiny Smith performs as part of the Air Academy marching band color guard. Photo courtesy of Melony Black

The Air Academy High School marching band took first place at the Legacy Marching Festival on Sept. 24 in Thornton. The festival is one of three that the band will compete in this season, in addition to regional and state competitions. The win at the Legacy Festival was significant, said senior drum major Sydney Pabelico, who is already bracing herself for graduation.

“The Legacy is always our first competition of the season,” she said. “I realized that I wouldn’t be here next year, that the Legacy marked the beginning of my last season with the band. It was definitely a bittersweet experience.”

The Air Academy band is no stranger to success, having won first place in every competition they have entered in the past seven years, as well as winning eight marching band state championships and four Bands of America Regional Class championships since 2003.

“The band room at Air Academy is filled with flags and trophies the band has won,” said Melony Black, head of photography and communication for the band.

The focus of the marching band reaches far beyond winning competitions, however. Band director Stoney Black, now in his 14th year at AAHS, sees band participation as an opportunity for students to learn valuable life skills. “Stoney really hopes to teach the kids how to function as part of a team; he wants them to see that every individual is important in the success of the group,” said Melony, who is married to Stoney.

Marching band is an elective class at the high school, meeting daily for 90 minutes. The time is split between band practice and physical conditioning, which equips students to meet the rigorous demands of marching while playing their instruments. Students of all grade levels and abilities are welcome to participate in marching band at Air Academy. No auditions are required for entrance into the ensemble. “Anyone is welcome to join the band; Stoney asks only for effort and commitment,” Melony said. “If you want to be a part of the band, you will be given a part.”

In addition to instrumentalists, the marching band is comprised of a color guard of about 40 students. “They are an integral part of the band,” Melony said. “They are easily the largest section of the group, and perform with the marching band in every competition.”

The success of the band is even more impressive considering its practice schedule. Only one after-school practice is held each week, plus an occasional Saturday rehearsal.

“Stoney doesn’t want the students to be forced to choose between after-school sports and band,” Melony said. “He recognizes the value of family time, part-time jobs and academics, and makes it possible for students to maintain balance between marching band and the rest of their lives.”

Prior to the start of the school year, band students participate in several one-day workshops as well as a weeklong summer band camp. This gives the group a head start on learning the complex, 15-minute competition routine for the upcoming season.

“Each band member is part of a ‘drill coordinate,’ a smaller group with its own specific formations in the routine,” said Pabelico. “You have to learn your ‘dots,’ your individual marching spots on the field within your drill coordinate.”

Two leadership conferences are held each year for band members. Any student enrolled in band is welcome to attend, but participation is required of students seeking to fill a role as an instrumental section leader. “These conferences are fantastic: the students gain skills they will use for the rest of their lives,” said Melony.

In order to fill a roll as a section leader or drum major in the band, students must undergo an application process involving written essays, interviews before a committee and a service project to benefit the band in some way. “The section leaders in the band play a huge role in mentoring their sections, helping the band members with everything from proper technique to learning their music and routines,” said senior drum major Kate Gready. “Our motto this year has been ‘Bottom Up:’ we start with the members who are struggling the most, help them gain the skills they need, and build our section up from there. No one gets left behind.”

Pabelico said being part of the band has been the defining experience of her high school career. “I met and became friends with nearly 180 students that I might not have known otherwise.”

Gready agreed. “My four years in marching band have been an incredible experience,” she said. “I know that when I graduate this year it is the family that the band has become for me that I will miss the most.”