It’s not often that fans are treated to three separate marching bands in a high school football game.
Normally, both high schools that are playing in the football game put on performances from their bands at halftime and in pregame. But what if your school doesn’t have a football team?
Such was the scenario for the Clay Panthers and their band. Clay was able to perform at home during basketball games, and for events like the Circleville Pumpkin Festival, but were never able to perform at a football game since the Panthers do not have a team.
That is, until Clay band director Alice Maggard was presented with an interesting opportunity from a fellow SOC school.
Oak Hill band director Bryce Werntz came to Maggard at a meeting last year with an idea on how the Oaks and Panthers could collaborate.
“Last year, we had invited them up to a game and they came because they don’t have a football team, and most of those band kids don’t get to experience what most band kids experience,” Werntz said on the opportunity. “So, they came up last year and those kids had the time of their life seeing a different side of band they don’t normally get.”
The story doesn’t end there, though, as Werntz and Maggard combined again this year to make the experience a reality once more.
Clay’s marching band joined the Oak Hill band again this year, performing at last Friday’s East at Oak Hill game. The Panthers performed with the Oaks in pregame and for nearly the entire halftime routine.
“At our spring meeting last year, we were talking and he was commenting that we might be able to do it again,” Maggard said. “I said ‘that would be awesome! Our students had a blast and we would love to do that.’ Because obviously we don’t have football, so that’s an opportunity for us to participate in a performance venue that we won’t get to do otherwise.”
Not only did Clay get to perform with Oak Hill again, the Panthers also had an expanded role with the Oaks this time around.
Katie Hoover, a senior in the Clay band, says the Panthers were able to be more involved this year.
“This year, we did a little more with them,” Hoover said. “We played more songs with them, and we knew more songs from the sideline with them so we got to play that.”
“It was a fun experience to get to meet new people, and do stuff that we don’t normally get to do because we don’t have football.”
Freshman Ben Boyer, who plays the bass drum, also enjoyed getting to do more with Oak Hill in his second year.
“Last year we only had three of their songs,” Boyer said. “This year, they gave us just about every song they have. It was pretty intimidating, but intimidating in a good way.”
For sophomore Trinity Ketchell, who is in the fourth year of the band at Clay, it was all about having fun.
“We got to do a lot more stuff this year and got to be a lot more included … We got more music this year and we were able to be included in almost their entire halftime routine and entire pregame, so that was a lot of fun,” Ketchell said.
Maggard and Werntz had been communicating since August, and Clay has been practicing hard to learn the Oak Hill songs. The Panthers practiced with the Oaks for an hour on the evening of the game, but that was the only practice the two bands got together.
Despite only 60 minutes of practicing in unison, both bands delivered an exceptional performance together on the field. Oak Hill began the halftime show, and Clay joined alongside shortly after.
“It meshed together so well,” Werntz said. “It was great … the level of the show continued, and more excitement built.”
“Seeing two schools come together to form one group, and to give an experience those kids don’t normally get every Friday night like other schools, I really believe in banding together and helping one another out. If that’s putting another band with my band, it’s worth it.”
Werntz says many have questioned his choice to include Clay, but that it was never a tough decision for him to involve a smaller band like that of the Panthers.
“I’ve been questioned by other band directors why I do that, and I say why not? We need to come together,” Werntz said. “Yes, we’re different schools, but when I can facilitate a form of unity and a sort of sportsmanship coming together and the band kids can demonstrate that, it teaches a lot of things to the kids.”
Along the way, a lot of friendships were made and some even rekindled between members of both bands.
The night was big for Clay sophomore London Hall, who plays trumpet for the Panthers. Hall transferred to Clay in eighth grade, and has made a lot of friends from the band. She says that she enjoyed the experience even more in her second year.
“I got to play it last year, but I think I had more fun this year,” Hall said. “I’m opening up to more people, and some of those kids I saw there I met at 4H camp two years ago, and one of them I met over the summer.”
For others, like junior Ian Grimm, it was a chance to build new relationships while doing something he is passionate about.
“It was really cool meeting new people and just getting to do what I love,” Grimm said.
The trip was even a dream come true for some. Senior Sami Willis, who plays the flute, knew that transferring to Clay in middle school could keep her from the football field.
“I moved from a different school in the area to Clay when I was in sixth grade, and I was leaving a football team,” Willis said. “I was kind of upset about that because a lot of bands, their big thing is the football halftime show.”
Performing at Oak Hill the last two years has allowed Willis to fulfill her wish of playing at a football game.
“Getting to perform with them and march with them, it felt amazing,” Willis said. “You get to feel like you’re a part of a really big band and do football shows. I’ve always dreamed about doing that, so getting to do it is pretty good.”
Clay eighth grader Gavin Cayton even has a personal connection to the Jackson County high school.
“It was kind of cool for me personally because my grandfather graduated from Oak Hill and my dad taught at Oak Hill for about 30 years,” Cayton said.
Cayton is the only trombone in the band for the Panthers, so getting to be with some of his peers who played the same instrument for Oak Hill was something new.
“It was really nice being able to play with a bigger band because our school is just a much smaller school in general, so we have a much smaller band,” Cayton said. “I’m the only trombone at Clay, so it was nice to play with a lot more people.”
While marching with the Oaks, Cayton got the full experience. He was even able to run the flag on the field after Oak Hill scored a touchdown.
The Marching Oaks even treated Clay to a dinner following the game. Werntz and the band boosters from Oak Hill put together a meal for the Panthers and Oaks to share.
“After we performed, his band parent boosters had provided dinner for all of us,” Maggard said. “That was a neat treat to get to go in and sit down and enjoy fellowship with one another as well.”
Overall, it was a memorable night for the marching band from Clay High School. Maggard was thankful for the chance to perform alongside Oak Hill once again.
“Mr. Werntz feels very passionately about music like I do, and it’s just an opportunity to get the kids more excited about music and do something that otherwise they would not have an opportunity to do, and we were very grateful to him for reaching out with that [opportunity],” Maggard said.
One can expect that this isn’t the last time Werntz and Oak Hill will include another band in their performances.
“Any time we can reach out and help each other, even if it’s our biggest rival, I’ll do it because I believe we can have a tournament on the field or on the court, but in reality we’re all the same.”
“With the kind of society and world we’re dealing with these days, a little positivity goes a long way, and speaks highly of the kids and all those involved,” Werntz said.
For a coach who emphasizes having fun above everything else, Werntz and Oak Hill know what creating a good time is all about. It just so happens that a little music is all it takes.
“They’re from a bigger school,” Maggard said. “We’ve got a smaller band from a small school, but it doesn’t matter if you’re big or small, the love of music is the love of music and it was awesome to get to share that opportunity with one another.”
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT