A chance to toot their own horns

Grand Junction High School senior Carolyn Aldrich plays the tenor saxophone during the Colorado West Marching Band Festival at Stocker Stadium on Sept. 28.

Instruments gleaming in the sunshine, high school marching bands from across the Western Slope thrilled the crowd at Stocker Stadium on Saturday with their intricately choreographed shows.

All four District 51 schools were represented at the Colorado West Marching Band Festival with Fruita Monument High School winning the Class V division and Palisade High School taking first in Class III.

Most of the bands have been practicing for this event since holding band camps in July. Since then, it has been a constant process of practice and improvement working their way to this competition. All four of the school's band directors said the time and commitment of their students is immense.

"They've loved it," Fruita Band Director Ryan Crabtree said. "They've really not stopped working hard and they love the music. So that's been a good bonus for them."

Grand Junction High School drum major Samantha Balint said the training the band goes through can be intense.

"In the beginning, when we start doing full runs of the show, it's really tiring," Balint said. "It's like running a marathon. After that it gets way easier because your endurance builds up."

While all the training and practice can be difficult at times, Central High School drum major Sirah Bond said it has all been worth it.

"I am so tired, but the payoff is insane," Bond said. "It's so gratifying to stand on the podium and then hear everybody cheer and clap when you're done."

The shows varied from a reimagining of "Romeo and Juliet" by Grand Junction to a message on keeping connected to one another by Central. Fruita played "Nearer My God to Thee," "Angels in the Architecture" and "Stairway to Heaven," while Palisade High School played all original music.

"I love this show," Palisade Band Director Jeff Mason said. "It's called 'Always Now' and it involves narration. The show is all custom-designed, so you wouldn't recognize the music from anywhere else, but the storyline is basically an affirmation and reminder to live in the moment."

While the marching and playing is difficult, the drum major's job to conduct the band and keep time is critical to the success of the performance. Palisade drum major Austin Leach, who is in that role for the first time, said it has been a challenge.

"I would say, for me, it's a super huge jump," Leach said. "You are in charge of the music. It's also cool because you get to convey the music."

For Fruita drum major Elizabeth Kennedy, who shared the role with Peyton Clark, the job can be nerve-wracking.

"It's very exciting and a little bit stressful," Kennedy said. "You're on the podium conducting. It's a big leadership position and a lot of work."

Clark said that while she was a little nervous, getting to perform with the rest of her bandmates and experience the excitement together is what she enjoys.

"Marching in the band is great because you get to hang out with all these awesome people," Clark said.

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