After a semester of hard work, the McPherson High School marching band has two more successful festival competitions under its belt. The group achieved the highest score, 92 of 100, at the Emporia State University Marching Band Festival on Oct. 5 and received a top score of “1” at the Central States Marching Festival on Oct. 15.


After a semester of hard work, the McPherson High School marching band has two more successful festival competitions under its belt. The group achieved the highest score, 92 of 100, at the Emporia State University Marching Band Festival on Oct. 5 and received a top score of “1” at the Central States Marching Festival on Oct. 15.
“I was very pleased with the kids, this was a very hard show this year” said Kyle Hopkins, director of bands. “I think we did as good of a job as we're capable of doing, and you know what? That’s the goal. If you do your best job and you achieve excellence in music and marching, you really should be able to leave satisfied regardless of what score you get.”
The competition at Emporia involved 10 bands, including familiar rivals Gardner-Edgerton and Emporia. They were scored within five categories on their full show, songs adapted from West Side Story.
The band then kicked the competition up a notch and competed at Kansas State University, the biggest festival in the state. This involved 37 schools from Kansas and surrounding states, ranging from student sizes of 30 to more than 250. This gave them the opportunity to compete as well as watch and learn from other schools.
“From an educational standpoint, that's probably almost more important than doing the show ourselves because they get to see what's out there,” Hopkins said. “I always use the question, ‘What's the difference between a good band and an excellent band?’ I can talk about it all the time, but here they see it.”
The group also was able to work closely with members of the KSU band staff and learn how to improve.
For Hopkins, the best part of competing in this way is that McPherson, an full inclusive marching band, can play with others that are strictly competitive.
“We stand toe-to-toe with these large, competitive bands, and we hold our own,” he said. “That, to me, is the proudest thing I can say - we don’t have to turn kids away. What we achieve for full inclusively is really quite incredible. I think that’s what makes us unique.”
It's based on this uniqueness that Hopkins chooses these festivals.
“We go to competitions that challenge us and push us,” he said. “I pick competitions that will raise our standards, and we can do well at with the full inclusivity.”
Although the competitions are over, Hopkins continues to strive for excellence. The band is now preparing to perform its first full-show performance for its home crowd at the football game tonight.
“It's easy to kind of give up now because we're not being judged, we're not being rated, but that's not the point. The point is do your finest job because it’s an experience of value,” he said. “Music is a value in and of itself, and I never want to lose sight of that. That’s why I think Friday is important. The competition is over. Sure, I want the crowd to see how well the kids did, but I want them to do it for them.”
The marching band has been preparing for these shows since Aug. 1, when it began a week of band camp involving two-a-day practices.
“During band camp, we become a family,” said senior and percussion section leader Samantha Silver, who says she has “grown more in love with music” and plans to major in music education.
This band camp is a family of 94. It lost 30 seniors last year and is now is more heavy on underclassmen.
But Hopkins said although the school’s numbers are going down, band numbers are going up.
Drum major Hannah Martin, one senior who has seen both sides of the coin, said this year is probably the most rewarding.
“I've put so much of myself into it,” she said.
A highlight so far this year is performing at Central States Marching Festival.
“It's really exciting because you’re under the lights,” she said. “There’s so many people there, and it’s people that actually care. They’re there because you’re there. It's nice knowing that the applause isn’t just, ‘Oh, they’re done,’ but it’s, ‘Wow, that was really awesome.’”