The Schuyler Central High School Marching Band enters 2018 with high hopes under the direction of second year director Benjamin Coatney.
As Coatney enters his second year in the music education field he has some of the first year “jitters” behind him and he also has come to understand and appreciate the unique opportunity of teaching in Schuyler.
“Walking into the program last year it became obvious to me that we had a highly diverse set of students with a more diverse set of abilities,” he said. “To be successful, our goal from day one was to simply approach things ‘one step at a time’ and that is exactly what we did the entire year. We used every minute of rehearsals to make clear, observable goals so that the students notice their progress and it allowed us to continue building upon what had already been learned.”
This year, Coatney has set similar expectations for his band.
“Success is found by what we can control. We can’t control the score we are given in a contest or competition be we can control whether we will have a positive or negative attitude during rehearsals,” he said. “We can’t control if we are presented with adversity but we can control how we respond to it. If we practice with a productive mindset and work to improve something every day, the results will tend to follow.”
Coatney noted there will be 104 students on the marching band roster in 2018 with students coming from the high school, the middle school, and the rural schools.
The band’s repertoire this fall is in a show entitled, “The Matador” by Dennis Eveland. It is a musical suite made up of four movements: I-Entry of the Matador, II-Prepare for Battle, III-The Battle Begins, and IV-Fiesta.
“We are asking for a lot of the students this year. The show contains meter changes, tempo shifts, a variety of rhythms, independent section parts, and solos. We are also utilizing a pit percussion section, something we did not have last year,” he said. “All of these are welcome challenges that we will continue to navigate.”
The band has a challenging schedule with several new additions. They open the season at the Fremont Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 22. That appearance is followed up with the short trip 20 miles to the west to participate in the Columbus Marching Band Festival parade and field competition on Saturday, Sept. 29. On Wednesday, Oct. 3 the band will compete in the Pierce Invitational. The following Saturday (Oct. 6) the band will make another appearance at the Harvest of Harmony Parade and Field competition in Grand Island, Nebraska. Harvest of Harmony has long been recognized as one of the largest and oldest parade competitions in the state of Nebraska. It is televised annually on Channels 10/11 out of Lincoln. One week later, on Saturday, Oct. 13, the band concludes its competition season at the LPS Marching Band Festival in Lincoln.
In preparation for this marching season, the band held their annual summer band camp the last week of July into the first week of August. The importance and success of the band camp were mandatory, according to Coatney.
“I was very satisfied with out numbers this year at camp. We consistently had between 65-70 students arrive every day at camp. This was a big jump from last year,” he said. “We used the time available at camp to teach and review essential marching concepts as well as give much needed feedback and practice for each student regarding a wide variety of music we will perform during the season.”
As the school year begins the goals have become more specific.
“We want to improve one thing every day, be the example we wish to see, keep band a safe and secure environment, put ourselves and others in a position to be successful, and focus on what we can control,” Coatney said.
One thing that many people don’t realize is the extra time and effort it takes to place a successful marching band out on the football field or competition field.
“The high school students have three mornings of early rehearsal each week while the eighth-grade marchers and rural students have two early morning rehearsals each week. These early rehearsals begin at 7:15 a.m,” the instructor said.
The band staff is comprised of Troy Ehmke, Morgan Semerad, and Coatney. Ehmke is the new middle school band director in his first year at SCS. He formerly was the middle school band director in Hastings. Semerad is in her second year as a music education instructor in the Schuyler system. This year she has taken over the role color guard instructor. She also teaches choir and keyboard at the high school. Coatney assessed that all three instructors bring something different to the music program that allows the department to continue to grow towards new successes.