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Teens on the march: 110 WHS band members hit band camp

WORTHINGTON - Think fast: It's 10 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in late July -- do you know where your teenager is?

If your teen is one of the 110 students involved with the Worthington High School (WHS) band, the answer is easy: Trojan field, where the "Spirit of Worthington" is busily preparing for the upcoming marching band season, despite the heat, sun and humidity.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day this week, WHS band director Jon Loy and his 12 volunteer assistants lead the musicians through field and marching drills. They are aiming to perfect a new field show by September with a "Where's Waldo?" theme, performed to music of the popular band the Foo Fighters.

"Everyone is really excited for the upcoming season," said Loy, now beginning his third year at WHS. "The kids have worked hard in the off-season to prepare, and their work ethic is stronger than ever."

Arriving with sunscreen, sunglasses and jugs of water, the students may be weary but are nevertheless attentive and engaged.

"Everybody is concentrating really hard," Loy told the band members via a megaphone toward the end of the first day's exercises. "Way to step it up. I really appreciate what you're doing."

Last week, the 14 drum line members and 24-person color guard practiced for six hours daily in advance of the entire band assembling. Also, section leaders and the three student band commanders -- seniors Andrew Reif, Chris Schwebach and Connor Tripp -- worked to ready equipment and learn conducting techniques before being joined by their numerous peers at band camp this week.

"We can't wait to unveil our new look at the King Turkey Day parade, including new uniforms and a whole new parade show," Loy said.

The band's parade theme is "The Spirit of Christmas," which may seem anachronistic in sizzling July but will be just the ticket when the group performs at the 75th annual McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago, Ill.

"The parade will be broadcast live on cable station WGN, with an estimated 71 million households tuning in each year, and there are usually about 500,000 spectators on the parade route," Loy stated. "We're on a four-year cycle for a band trip, with this being the first."

Complete with giant snowflake flags and dancing presents, the Trojan band will march to "Jingle Bells," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Angels We Have Heard on High."

"We already performed the 'Spirit of Christmas' parade show once, at the Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa, last May," Loy explained, "but now of course we have a new batch of freshmen and lost the graduating seniors so there's some work to do.

"Still, we took the People's Choice award and first place in parade at that festival, so we're looking to maintain, and even improve on, our success."

The band's schedule of competitions kicks off in Waseca on Sept. 20, closely followed by the Tri-State Band Festival in Luverne on Sept. 27 and the Big Sioux Review in Brandon, S.D., later that same day. On Oct. 11, the Trojans will compete at the River City Band Festival in Chamberlain, S.D.

Another highlight will be the Trojan band's trip to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on Oct. 25 to participate in the "Youth in Music Field Championships," their last competition before traveling to Chicago in late November.

"Expectations are instilled, and the kids are taking a lot of pride in our program," Loy remarked.

It's a program that wouldn't be possible without the foundation being laid simultaneously across town at Prairie Elementary, where elementary band instructor Jeanette Jenson, joined by music teacher Jeanne Mammen, is currently beginning at square one with a new group of 63 fifth-grade beginning band students.

Kneeling on the floor in front of a few first-time horn players, Jenson patiently adjusted the students' hands and feet and cautioned the female musicians against applying lip gloss or Chapstick before playing.

"There's no such thing as bad or awful noises when you start to play," encouraged Jenson, ever the optimist as she held a mirror before one girl who was struggling to gain the proper mouth position. "That's ok now--remember, there are no right or wrong sounds."

For two weeks, the elementary beginners will meet daily with Jenson or Mammen for individual lessons that will enable them to execute a first concert by late fall.

While Loy is seeking a higher level of performance from his high school musicians, it won't be long before those fifth-graders are among the ranks of the "Spirit of Worthington," selling frozen food to fundraise for a major band trip and sweating it out-- and stepping it up--on Trojan field in anticipation of a winning marching band season.

"It's terrific to see the kids take their role as musical ambassadors for Worthington and District 518 so seriously," Loy said.

Student band commander Schwebach confirmed Loy's view.

"I have more to do in band as a commander, but I feel even more a part of it than I did before," Schwebach stated. "But I really like being in band, so that's a good thing."

The public is welcome to attend the "Parent Preview Night" at Trojan Field at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, when the Trojan marching band will debut its 2008 "Where's Waldo?" field show. They will also perform their "Spirit of Christmas" parade show in the King Turkey Day parade on Sept. 13.