PDT staff writer
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles by the Daily Times visiting area school marching bands during their preparation for the fall performance season.
Football season is right around the corner, which means marching bands are deep in rehearsals and band camps as they prepare to hit the turf under the Friday night lights. Portsmouth East High School is just one of the bands that started band camp this week, facing the sun and heat to prepare the biggest show they’ve had in the past few years. The Tartan band has built this year’s show around a theme the band director, Elizabeth Gowdy, calls “How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse” to the tunes of Lady Gaga, Skillet and Michael Jackson.
“Zombies are a popular genre right now. I got a set of CD’s in the mail with marching tunes on them and this show title was on the list, but the music wasn’t really relatable. I liked the title and theme, so I just pieced together our own music for the show,” Gowdy explained. “I think the chosen selections are songs that the kids will be excited about.”
The marching band has been growing steadily in numbers and activity, since Gowdy took over as band director three years ago.
The band is currently at 26 enrolled marching members, which could likely increase as school starts on Aug. 26. The band reached 30 members last concert season, which typically has a higher amount of students than marching season, due to fall sports. Both of these numbers are greater than the numbers Gowdy had when she first got the job back in 2010. The current number of marching students Gowdy has is higher than any other she has had.
“This is the best camp we’ve had here at East, since I’ve been here. The kids have been amazing, they have worked very hard and the experience the kids gained from last year is really showing; we’re really getting the fruits of our labor. We worked on a lot of the basics already and worked out the show’s opening on day one. The kids left smiling and excited, which is always a good sign. I’ve had a lot of comments from students, saying that they are so glad they are involved in the band and this show.”
Gowdy said that the show’s drill is being handled subtly with the zombie theme. She wants to hint at the theme of zombies and not cross the line over to tackiness. She has promised “cool” drill moves, but doesn’t want to give anything away before they unveil the show.
Erin Kingery, 10th grade clarinetist, has been in band since she was in the eighth grade and is excited for this show of hummable tunes and fun drills.
“I think this show is much better than last year,” Kingery said. “It is more difficult, it’s bigger and has more to do. The more difficult the show, the more we get to do with it and the bigger we can make it.”
Kingery believes the band has something to prove this season, “I think people will be surprised by our show. Some people don’t think we’re the best, but we really impressed people at the fair this year. I think we will show how good our drill is and how well we can march.”
Ken Henry, who served as East band director off and on from 1985 to 2000, is assisting Gowdy with the band this marching season.
“Feels good to help out,” Henry said. “It’s always been a good school to work for, good kids with good attitudes about band; it’s a lot of fun. The band is shaping up. It usually takes four to five years for a band director to to start making a band theirs and to bring it back. They’ve had some hard times to come back from. They had a really great guy and director here, Scott Brehm, that passed away in 2009. However, they’re bouncing back and making progress, numbers are picking up and attitudes are high.”
The East High marching band will unveil “How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse” on Aug. 30, at the home game against South Gallia, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m. They will be playing Skillet’s “Monster,” Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
“I just want to see the band do their best and give it their all this year,” Gowdy said. “I want them to have fun and not leave anything behind”