For the roughly 165 teens in the Center Grove Marching Trojans, preparing for a band season takes the time commitment of a part-time job.
The students practice music and marching more than 17 hours a week to prepare for performances at football games and at regional and national competitions. The Trojans also are one of 12 high school marching bands from around the world that have been invited to participate in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Adding in more practice hours to prepare for the parade isn’t an option. The band already puts in a seven-hour Saturday practice on most weekends and will practice around competitions on other weekends. Besides, director Kevin Schuessler doesn’t want the teens exhausted after competition season, when they will board buses for a whirlwind six-day trip to New York City.
“My goal is to respect the students and respect the parents more and more each day,” Schuessler said. “We’re not going to up the rehearsal schedule by 50 percent. We’re just going to be more efficient.”
With 12 weeks until Thanksgiving, the directors, volunteers and musicians look to put every minute of practice to best use.
The band’s part- and full-time visual directors, who are paid with money raised by Center Grove’s band boosters, spend more time helping students map out, practice and improve their marching designs.
Having more eyes on the field enables the band to develop and perfect the visual parts of their show more quickly.
The visual directors also work with the students to be sure they’re carrying their instruments and marching properly.
Any time the band saves by learning and mastering this year’s show earlier than usual will be needed so the students and directors can work on parade preparations.
That planning will include many details, such as deciding how the music will be performed during the 2.5-mile Macy’s route and finalizing students’ room assignments, chaperones, transportation and daily schedules while they’re in New York, Schuessler said.
A company has been hired to serve as the travel coordinator.
“The main thing about it is you have to move up your timeline for when you need to get things done,” Schuessler said.
Center Grove was selected to participate in the Macy’s parade in May 2013, and Schuessler started making preparations for the trip with parade organizers and band volunteers and employees almost immediately. He knew he couldn’t plan for the entire trip that far in advance, but he couldn’t wait until this fall, either.
One early decision involved the music Center Grove would perform.
Previously, schools selected to perform in the Macy’s Parade opted to perform Christmas music.
But when Schuessler spoke with parade officials, they told him that Center Grove’s band needed to select music that showed why it was worthy of selection out of the more than 175 bands that applied.
The band will perform music from this season’s show, which is titled “Understandings” and which Schuessler described as a cross between the animated film “The Lorax” and the adventure film “Avatar.”
The theme of the show is about two societies learning to interact and co-exist, and the music from the show will be similar to the kind of scores an audience might hear during an adventure film, Schuessler said.
“We’re not interested in intimidating anybody. We’re interested in putting something out there that looks very different,” he said.
Center Grove’s regular marching season ends Nov. 15, and the band leaves for New York City nine days later.
So for the next several months, expect to see band members marching back and forth in Center Grove High School’s parking lots so they can get used to parade marching.
Students will need to finalize their room and bus assignments. Parents and assistant directors will work with Schuessler to schedule when the band’s equipment will be driven to New York and where it will be stored.
Dozens of instruments, drums and flags, and uniforms and shoes for all 165 band members need to arrive in New York on time and be securely stored during the trip.
“It’s not as if we’re waiting until two months before. There’s been a lot of planning up to this point,” Schuessler said.