Spirit of Muncie Marching Band and Guard Head to Final Competition

By Bobbi Taylor

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - “The kids are alright.” That's the general consensus found in and around the practice field of Muncie Central's Spirit of Muncie Marching Band and Guard. As the kids head into their final competition of summer marching season this Saturday at the State Fair they need the support of the community now more than ever.

The show entitled, “Anatomy of Composition: Poetry, Art, and Music,” is a creative representation of Muncie Central and Muncie South's bands merging together to create one band. Jeramiah Bowman, former Southside band director and current co-director as well as lead marching band director, explains, “The opener is based off of the poem, 'Oh me! Oh life!' by Walt Whitman.”

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish, —What good amid these, O me, O life?

ANSWER. That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and YOU may contribute a VERSE

The summer marching season planning began after the MCS Board voted to merge the schools, but before the band merger had been decided, it had to. It takes months to plan a marching band season, waiting until the middle of spring to secure music rights, drill writers, music arrangers, and a band staff would have been incredibly difficult. The music had already been picked out by December and the process of beginning the arranging process began soon after. Bowman approached Clay Arnett, co-director of the Muncie Central band and lead concert director, in March. “After all the decisions had already been made, we sat down together as a staff to finalize. We didn't want to be literal. The show circuit has to be creative,” said Bowman.

Bowman goes on to explain, “The play being this (school) merger and our verse being the transition from two schools. The ballad is about art. That's where we go from a blank slate on the back of the art pallet to all the colors, to essentially build the compass, going from red on one side to purple on the other side. And that's when we reveal the compass with the spectrum behind it as well. The compass is the insignia of the band. One Muncie: north, south, east, and west. And the finale is music. One of the props has the Central school song on it.”

The students participating in this summer's marching season are all volunteers. They are the kids who wanted to tackle this merger head on and deal with it now. The mix of kids is pretty even. Bowman said he'd guess it's about 60/40 with a few out of district kids. Bowman and Arnett took two days to talk to the kids at all the schools with John Clark, Southside Middle School's band director and Debbie Mizelle, Northside's band director, and Rhonda Reynolds, color guard director. “We told them, 'whoever shows up to do this, you will be successful. But you have to be here and you have to commit yourselves to it. The ones who have done it, are glad they did.”

When asked about how the kids are handling the merger, most parents and staff agree that the kids are doing well. Cindy Rhinehart, parent and band booster, explained, “As with anything it was a rough start. They weren't sure who was going to work hard. But, you see them having fun.” Dave Collins, parent and band booster, pointed out that this isn't the first time some of these kids have played together. He said his kids have played baseball at Northside. Jeff Little, parent and band booster, said he's seen some of the band kids make great friends over the course of the summer. Even though kids still wear their Muncie Central or Muncie South shirts to practices the band continues to push forward. Bowman says the kids are, “doing well. They're kids. Some things they don't understand and I don't understand, why it is the way it is. It's all trial and error.”

What isn't helping? Turmoil within the community. “I don't want to downplay it. It's been very traumatic for a lot of people. But, I do know the kids need our support. Downplaying every single post on Facebook and making rude comments really just kind of negates how special of a night they all had. You're making that more important than what they're doing. What they're doing is more important. The decision was made. The only constant is change. None of us asked for this, but we've all had to sacrifice.”

Rhonda Reynolds stated, “The kids are adapting fantastic. The biggest problems are probably parents and old traditions from either school. We hope to squash all those things with the One Muncie, One School.” Rhinehart said that this isn't the way anyone wanted things to go, but “our kids can lead us into a positive way to do things. And we have to allow them to do that. Let's create a new 'we are going to do it this way.'”

The hard part is creating new things for a new school. “Trying to come up with new things for the band to do, it's not always being Central and not always being South. But creating the new stuff. That's the hard part. We've always had our traditions we take part in,” says Bowman.

Reynolds smiled when she said, “When I look out there I don't see South or Central. I just see kids.” She goes on to say that we need the town to “back us and support us, even after the State Fair. There is still band and guard after State Fair. We work all year 'round. The boosters work all year 'round. It's all the things we do throughout the school year that make our summer even possible. Make us feel like the community is behind us. The support helps tremendously.”

The band staff, students, and families hopes to keep the momentum rolling from Tuesday's first place finish at Delaware County Fairgrounds. The Spirit of Muncie placed first in competitions at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, Noblesville High School, tied for first at Central high school, and placing second at the first competition of the season at Jay County. The band and guard has practiced on the field for eight hours during band camp days, and four hours on regular practice days. Everyone has worked hard building props and sets, practicing, getting the drum majors to the field, coordinating meals and transportation, fundraising.

Bowman says he hopes they will have a great performance. When asked to describe what's in store for Saturday's competition he replied with, “You can't bottle what the night show is like. They'll be in position to do their best and take the top spot. That's always our goal: give them the opportunity to be a contender. And they are. As long as we do our best, the trophies will take care of themselves.”

“These kids are in a position that very few kids may ever be in. I'm proud of them. The kids will be alright.”


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