The Portsmouth High School Marching Band is in session of their 2014 band camp, where they are taking on the challenge of Romantic Russian classics.
Last year, Matt Swintek was in his second year of teaching the band and began to really shape it in his own direction. The band began focusing on entering competitions again and choosing stronger musical numbers. Swintek also claims to have a growing band, this year topping off at 34, whereas it was 24 his first year. The growth has also caused the band to raise a category in competition standards.
“I feel that we have progressed quite a bit since my first year,” Swintek said. “The level of discipline, strength and character is huge, compared to what it was.”
Swintek’s last season show was aimed towards bleeding red and blue, going to the roots of Portsmouth and writing about the classic Spartans in a show he called “Rise of the Spartans.” The show was designed around the Coliseum and getting the band to take ownership of their image.
“This year, our show is called ‘Returning to Light.’ The whole premise behind it is the inner battle against our demons,” Swintek explained. “This year’s show is a personal issue, whereas last year was about finding and stating our real identity. This year, we break down bad habits and fight against what is holding us back from being as great as we can really be.”
The numbers in “Returning to Light” include Romantic Russian pieces, such as excerpts from “The 1812 Overture,” “The Hut of Baba Yaga,” “The Great Gate of Kiev,” “The Firebird Suite” and more.
“The show is coming together fantastically. Over the first week of band camp, we’ve got the opening ballad on the field and are marching and playing the tunes,” Swintek said. “Of course, the show isn’t performance ready, but we still have another month for that. They took the show and really ran with it, numbers are memorized and they’re enjoying it. I think it is going to be a really good season for us.”
Mark Jackson, senior, is normally on the field playing first trumpet, but is stepping up on the conductor podium this season as field commander.
“I feel like Swintek is taking us in a great direction,” Jackson said. “We’re all getting ready for competition and I think we can handle it. Everyone is grabbing on and getting the theme of the show and taking control of it. I feel like if we want it, we will definitely make State this year. There is nothing stopping us.”
The band is planning on partaking in five competitions this year, the closest being at Ironton High School on October 25 at 4 p.m.
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03