OHS band puts in work to shine on Friday night

OHS band puts in work to shine on Friday night
Matthew Anderson

The Orrville High band enters Red Rider Stadium prior to the first football game of the season against Wooster. Like the football team, the marching band puts hours of practice in prior to performing under the lights on Friday night.


Friday night high school football games just wouldn’t be the same without the beat of the drums and the sounds of a marching band.

Local marching bands, just like the football teams, spend weeks in the summer getting ready for that first Friday night under the lights.

For the Orrville High School marching band, practice for the football season starts with band camp the last week of July. According to Elyse Cummings, director of bands for Orrville City Schools, the opening of camp is no breeze.

“The first week of band camp is a full day of rehearsals from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday,” Cummings said. “The next two weeks leading up to the start of school we rehearse from 8 a.m. until noon.”

During morning band camp rehearsals, the band literally learns how to “march,” which involves reading drill charts and mapping out positions and placements on the field. “Afternoon rehearsal is focused on learning and memorizing the music that will be used for both pregame and halftime performances,” Cummings said.

Music for the season is chosen before the season even begins. Cummings explained that music selection is based on several factors, including what music showcases the current musicians best; how much the band can learn during band camp and during the first few weeks of school; how much on-field time for rehearsals students get; and, of course, the weather.

Once school starts, the band meets to rehearse the last period of the day, and then for an additional hour after school Monday and Tuesday each week. On Friday, students have a chance for a quick run home before meeting and rehearsing again prior to the game. “Fridays are always long days,” Cummings said, “but those days are where the most fun happens and students get to be in their element.”

Although the Red Riders always hope for a playoff run, the band will eventually make the transition to inside performances.

“After marching season ends, the band transitions to concert season and prepares for the annual holiday concert,” said Cummings. Concert season extends through the remainder of the school year, and the end of the year is marked by a banquet held jointly with the Orrville High School choirs directed by Grayson Abend, who also happens to be the assistant band director.

Being in the band isn’t just about music — it’s also about forming camaraderie and fostering teamwork.

“We end each day of band camp with a team building activity. Water balloon games were very popular with the hot days we had this year,” Cummings said, adding that she fondly remembers her own experiences with marching band, including a trip to Disney World she took with her high school band and a trip to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Closer to home, she also remembers the Orrville High football team won the state championship in 2018.

“At that game, the band experienced every possible combination of snow, sleet, rain and hail,” she said, knowing that such bonding experiences are those from which band folklore is born.

On any football Friday, support the high school marching band by staying in the stands during their halftime show. The students may not be the ones throwing the long passes or making the touchdown runs, but they deserve the plaudits just as much for adding to the sights, sounds and pageantry that make the “Friday Night Lights” so much fun for the community.

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