In November 2019, the Ferndale Marching Band & Color Guard was named the Washington State Classification 3A champion for the second consecutive year, concluding an outstanding competition season.
But long before the final note of the state competition was played, our marching band began planning and preparing. For the 2019-2020 school year, 95 students are a part of the band. Preparation for the school year and season started last May, when the eighth graders who would become freshmen band members were contacted with dates and commitments for the summer and upcoming year.
FHS Band director Steve Menefee, who has led the band for the last 22 years, shared his insights about the Golden Eagles’ band program for the latest program feature on the We Are Ferndale Blog.
Starting in Summer: Band Camp
“Band camp starts two weeks before school starts,” Menefee said. “That’s pretty much the standard in this area, that you start band camp two weeks before everyone else starts school.”
Band camp presents long days in August and September, but is important time in practicing for the year ahead. Beginning with early mornings and concluding with late evenings, students rehearse at the high school before spending the last three days of the two-week stretch at Camp Lutherwood on Lake Samish.
“That’s how long it takes, mostly to get the freshmen up to speed,” Menefee said. “One thing unique about band is we have to play our first, second, third and fourth strings all at the same time – they are all on the field together and so they’re basically all ‘varsity’ and so we work hard to sound like it,” Menefee said.
In addition to getting new members up to speed, band camp also represents a significant portion of the rehearsal time available throughout the season.
“What band camp does is build the family and unity, along with developing the skillset needed to perform a 7 ½ minute show at a competitive level,” Menefee said. “Band camp also allows us to frontload most of the rehearsal time, I would say camp is about 75 percent of the rehearsal time we have the entire season. Once schools starts, academics and jobs and all the other responsibilities that begin limit us to rehearsing twice per week.”
Beyond the fundamentals of playing instruments and marching, Menefee sees key growth in other areas of students’ development.
“Time management is one – some students are involved in other activities, sports, etc., and have to fit band into the mix,” Menefee said. “Another important outcome is commitment to seeing a process all the way through to the end at a really high level – it is something that students today don’t get to participate in very often, and band provides that opportunity.”
The Competition Season
As back-to-back state champions at the 3A level, the Golden Eagles also placed 3rd overall, regardless of classification, among 23 teams in attendance at the state competition in Auburn.
An outstanding accomplishment, the performance in Auburn followed two previous competitions during the fall. Ferndale also won its classification at competitions in Everett and Tumwater. All together, the Golden Eagles placed 2nd (regardless of classification) in Everett and Tumwater before placing 3rd of 23 in Auburn.
The placements reflect a commitment to process and achievement via a variety of judging components.
While the band has many commitments throughout the season and enjoys entertaining at events such as football games, the competition events differ with the judging component. Percussion, color guard, marching, music and overall general effect are some of the judging categories students are attentive to in preparation.
“The kids are taught about the protocol for competitions,” Menefee said. “There are eight judges all scoring on a rubric that highlights eight different categories of achievement.”
With 95 students in band, support received from parents and community members is invaluable. From providing meals during band camp to helping prep uniforms for a special feature during the 2019 fall season, the support is felt in a variety of ways.
“We have parents who are just all-stars for us,” Menefee said.
This season, the band titled its show “Artificial Intelligence” and featured LED lighting on student uniforms. Parents worked to prep 95 band uniforms with the LED lights that were a highlight of the competition performance.
“It had never been done before, and we had to invent how to do this,” Menefee said of the uniform prep. “The work was all done by the parents to get the uniforms ready -- to make sure one-by-one everyone was ready. That brought out the ‘cool’ factor in the show, having those lights, because no one else had those, and if it wasn’t for the help from parents, the performance would have been completely different.”
See a performance from the Ferndale Band: