TWIN FALLS — They’re getting the band back together.
For the first time in at least 10 years, a Twin Falls High School marching band is taking the field at home football games.
In previous years, a band participated in the school’s yearly homecoming parade. But for at least a decade, there hasn’t been a regular marching band to perform a halftime field show.
“Part of my teaching philosophy is offering the kids the whole pie,” band teacher Christy Taylor said, and marching band is a big piece of it. It’s her second year as band teacher at Twin Falls High and Vera C. O’Leary Middle School.
In the Magic Valley, marching bands seem to be less common than in the Boise and Pocatello areas, said Wayne Millett, president of the Idaho Music Educators Association.
“Generally throughout the state, it’s pretty normal for 4A and 5A schools to have a marching band,” he said. “It’s a little unusual Twin Falls hasn’t had one.”
Across south-central Idaho, only a handful of schools have marching bands, including Jerome High School, Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls, Wendell High School, Burley High School and Minico High School in Rupert.
Jerome’s ensemble has landed some big performances over the years and represented Idaho in 2016 in the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
Twin Falls’ marching band includes 30 members, about 20 percent of the 130 students in the high school band program.
Students started rehearsing in July and spent two weeks at a summer band camp, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day Monday through Friday.
Their field show features a piece of music called “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen.” Twin Falls High’s marching band is performing at every home football game this fall, plus two band competitions in October: at Minico High and Idaho State University’s Mountain West Marching Band Festival.
So far, students are enjoying marching band, Taylor said, and she notices they’re hanging out more outside of class.
Junior Shaelee Morton, 16, said marching band is really fun. “We work hard,”she said. “I think we’re becoming a small family.”
Shaelee, who has been playing in school bands since eighth grade, joined marching band to have something to do after school.
She has also played in Twin Falls High’s concert band, as well as a wind ensemble she and a couple of other flute players formed. She plans to continue with marching band her senior year of high school.
The hardest part about getting started: learning to march in time with music, Shaelee said. But once you’ve learned it, “it’s easy and you can teach someone else how to do it.”
For Twin Falls High, a long hiatus without a marching band — how many years, no one seems to know for sure — comes with challenges.
There are old polyester band uniforms from the 1970s, but they’re too small and don’t seem to fit anyone, Taylor said. Instead, band members are wearing matching pullover sweaters with a Twin Falls High logo.
The band already had all of the instruments it needed but used donation money to buy a marching sousaphone.
But there’s still so much the band could use, Taylor said, and donations are always welcome.
It’s a common theme for marching bands: The two biggest obstacles to starting a program are often time and money.
“Money is a big one,” said Millett, who’s a music teacher in Aberdeen. “Marching band is very, very expensive.”
Uniforms are a huge part of the cost, he said, as well as instruments — particularly, percussion. On top of that, marching band is a time-consuming endeavor, with rehearsals, football games, competitions and parades.
“The band director has to have a love of marching band,” Millett said, because it takes so much time. But he added: “It’s awesome to watch.”
Aberdeen had a marching band for about five years, starting in 2001, but doesn’t anymore.
“In a small school, one of the biggest problems we had is I’m fighting for the same kids as the football team and the cross-country team,” Millett said.
At Twin Falls High, white yard lines are spray painted onto a makeshift field — a grassy area between the main school entrance and Roper Auditorium.
Taylor started an after-school rehearsal around 4 p.m. Sept. 21 by using a black plastic trash bag to scoop up dog poop from the grass. It was an unusually chilly day, with the high temperature hovering around 50 degrees.
The band practiced marching on and off the field. “Left, left, left,” Taylor repeated as she used a mallet to hit a wood block, trying to help students march in time using the correct foot.
They ran through the field show several times, stopping periodically to work on certain sections. A couple of times, they sang their parts while focusing on marching, including in one “S” shaped curve.
As they wrapped up another run-through, Taylor told students: “Wherever the last drum note is, you have to freeze — right or wrong.”
At the end of rehearsal, Taylor reminded students to show up at 6:30 p.m. the following night for a home football game. She dismissed the group by saying: “Cool. Adios.”