Marching Band: Taking to the Field


Friday night on Burgess Field the Geneva High School Marching Band marches on left foot in front of the right. Moving around the field, intertwining with other people, marching, it all starts with the writing of the drill. Once a student in the marching band, now a director.

“I began marching in the band when I was a freshman here at GHS in 1980,” Geneva High School Band Director Pat Frederick said. “I marched all throughout high school and all through my undergraduate degree at Illinois State University.”

Many years under his belt both as a director and marching band trumpet player, writing drills for the Geneva High School Marching band is something he does with pride.

“My inspiration comes primarily from the music,” Frederick said. “When considering how I want the drill to look, I first consider what style and energy in communicated through the music. If the selection is smoother, slower, etc., I may be more inclined to create more curves and forms that “evolve” more slowly. If the music is faster, more energetic, etc., it may be more appropriate to create more angular forms that evolve more quickly.”

With an ample amount of time to rehearse both during second period band class, rehearsing the drill comes with complications.

“The difficulty level of the music the skill level of the musicians and auxiliaries (flags, twirlers), the amount of time we must learn the drill, possible interruptions to our rehearsals such as inclement weather,” Frederick said. “Other elements to the show such as guest performers (dance team, alumni, eighth graders, etc.) (props, special effects, etc. Any special events associated with the show that should be inserted into the drill.”

Rehearsal is not the time for practice, as it is not the same. Pre rehearsal preparation is key in whether the band does good.

“I make sure that I always have everything that I could possibly need for practice, and practice lets me see and feel what I need to do for the performance to go well, example being one of my slides are designed a bit too slick, so I keep a rubber band around it to keep it in place,” GHS Mellophone player Gavin Madary said. “Spending time with friends and the section takes no preparation other than making sure I have the essentials with me like keys, wallet.”

Focus is key while marching across the field as it requires a lot of attention to detail. Many band members never see the formations from the perspective of the audience.

“Last year, the directors would at least show us video of what we did so that we could see what we did right and what we did wrong, and we loved seeing our hard work as the audience gets to see it,” he said. It is a shame this year that the guy who was sending us the recordings no longer attends the games.”

Memorization and repetition are key to executing a nicely done drill maneuver. Audience members listen and watch as the marching band makes its way across the field and mistakes are likely to happen.

“As a former band member, I would say it takes a lot of practice and repetition to learn the drill, you will also make mistakes,” 2021 GHS baton team captain and graduate Maddy Kroll said. “You will learn a lot from your mistakes and hopefully learn what you are doing wrong to fix it.”

Middle school graduates and new students who may be hesitant to join marching band because of time commitments and not being the best player should not be worried.

“While I was in marching band, I learned how to twirl baton. I also learned leadership skills while being section leader to the twirlers by helping teach routines, those leadership skills are skills that I use to this day,” Kroll said.

A musician is never done working and nothing is ever perfect as there are always things to be worked on.

“Music is an Art form, you’re never finished making it better,” Frederick said.