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Colorado's high school marching bands are ready to take the field

Like high school athletes, band members across the state are at preseason camp to get into shape, and they are reenergized and ready to compete.

DENVER — Colorado’s competitive high school marching bands have been getting ready to take the field for their upcoming season.

Preseason band camps, where students start learning how to march and play their shows for competitions, are wrapping up at high school practice fields across the state.

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“It’s remarkable to see what kids are willing to do to come in a few weeks early over the summer,” said Aaron Herman, Fossil Ridge High School director of bands. “Kids have been working hard on music, working on learning visual basics, learning choreography, learning drill, putting all the pieces together.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Fossil Ridge High School's Director of Bands, Aaron Herman said, "It's almost surreal to see all of the pieces of the puzzle coming together and seeing our students really dig in and achieve at a high level."

The band camps are held in the heat of the summer, starting the last week of July and the first weeks of August.

They usually last for about two weeks and run 10 hours a day. Band members do calisthenics, run and get in shape so they can learn to perform about a 6.5-minute show – a show they’ll perform while marching, running, playing their instruments and spinning flags.

Credit: Byron Reed
Fossil Ridge High School in Ft. Collins

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“I like to think of it as a sport,” said Fossil Ridge High School senior trumpet player Jack Brockhagen. “Not only are we dancing and marching, but we’re also sprinting up and down these fields, doing stretches, bonding as a team, working out together just to become better athletes and better musicians.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Fossil Ridge senior trumpet player Jack Bockhagen said, "[We] get to know each other as people. Not as marchers and musicians, but as friends."

After camps, it's rehearsals before, during and after school to perfect the show that most see during halftime of football games.

In high school, the weekend competitions begin in September. Marching bands compete against one another, culminating in the Colorado Bandmasters Association (CBA) state championships in late fall.

“We run about 95 competitive programs through our sanctioned shows each season,” said CBA Marching Affairs Director Rick Shaw. “Our main focus in CBA is that it's student oriented. Everything we do is related to building better kids through better programs.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Rick Shaw, Colorado Bandmaster's Association's chairman of marching affairs.

According to Shaw, the first competitive CBA marching band competition was held in 1975 at Westminster High School. In 1980, the first state high school marching band championship was held at what was then Thornton High School.

“All started creating a different style of marching band and created the competitive nature that still exists today,” Shaw said. “The leadership, the dedication, the discipline that it takes is very much like what takes place on the athletic fields."

Rocky Ford Junior/High School director of music Jonathan Colson said it's that leadership that has helped him rebuild their 1A marching band program over the past three seasons.

Credit: Byron Reed
Rocky Ford Junior/Senior High School Director of Music Jonathan Colson said, "I never ask them for perfection…I just ask them for improvement."

“My student leadership actually helps out a lot,” Colson said.

Credit: Byron Reed

In 2019, forecasted cold temperatures, wind chill and the possibility of snow canceled the state marching band championships in Colorado Springs.

In 2020, CBA canceled marching band competitions in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year was the first year back to competition for marching members like Pine Creek High School senior drum major Tyler Allen.

“It’s really amazing to be back to a normal year this year,” Allen said. “I think we have a little more pressure on us, and I think that’s really going to motivate everybody to do even better than we ever have.”

Credit: Byron Reed

These marching members said they’re ready to get back on the field for competition — to perform a show that most people will only see at halftime on Friday nights.

Credit: Byron Reed

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“We’ve put in so much dedication and hard work, and I hope that pays off,” said Windsor High School senior drum major Joy Perry-Grice. “I just really hope that we do our best at competitions no matter what place we get.”

This story is part of 9NEWS' "Hearts of Champions: Marching across Colorado" series, where we're highlighting marching bands across the state. Watch our stories throughout the day on Fridays through the middle of September. Share your photos and memories with us using #Bandon9. 

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