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'Lots of energy and hard work': Conifer High School marching band gets back to basics

In part three of the "Hearts of Champions" series, the Lobo Regiment faces challenges after two years away as they get ready to compete for a state title.

CONIFER, Colo. — The second stop on our 2021 “Hearts of Champions” tour is with the Conifer High School Lobo Regiment, which is getting a re-fresher on how to march and play together again.

The band hasn’t competed since 2019, before the state championships were canceled due to weather. In 2020, the COVID pandemic forced bands to take the year off from marching.

The school’s director of instrumental music, Sean Cartner, said this is an unprecedented season, not for only his marching band but every program across Colorado and the U.S.

“So many opportunities were lost because of the pandemic,” he said. “So, this year, since we didn’t have marching band last season, both freshmen and sophomores … they’re all brand new to competitive marching band.”

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Credit: Byron Reed
Conifer High School's Director of Instrumental Music Sean Cartner gets his students ready for the upcoming competitive season during band camp

That's one of the challenges this 2A marching band faces as its members re-connect at pre-season band camp.

Incoming freshman Elijah Blanton plays trumpet and was born without a right leg. He said that learning how to play and march with a prosthetic leg is tough.

“It’s very easy to have it bend when I don’t want it to,” Blanton said. “Because it is marching band, you’re not supposed to have your knees bent, or otherwise it would be walking.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Incoming freshman trumpet player Elijah Blanton is learning how to march and play with a prosthetic leg

Highs school band camps are held in the heat of the summer, usually starting around the first weeks of August. They usually last for two weeks and for about 10 hours a day.

Band members do calisthenics, run, and get in shape so they can learn to perform a 6 ½ to 7-minute show. It’s a show they’ll perform while marching, running, playing their instruments and tossing flags.

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Credit: Byron Reed

“That’s pretty much six and a half minutes of playing an instrument where you are already exerting a lot of air, and then running around a field making all these crazy designs, marching at fast tempos,” said drum major Carly Getz.

“A lot of people don’t know quite the work that goes into it,” said senior trumpet player Jordan Peschong. “There’s a lot of afterschool practices and lots of energy and hard work.”

Credit: Byron Reed

Peschong faces a hurdle of her own. She moved to Colorado from Florida on March 12, 2020, which was the day that her new school shut down.

“It was really sad because I wanted to make new friends,” she said. “I had to spend the summer not quite knowing anybody but my family up here.”

Cartner said that this year, the marching band will compete in 2A, after marching in 3A competition in 2019. He saw his marching band membership shrink from 48 down to 43 members, partly due to time management at a smaller school.

Credit: Byron Reed

“Most of our students are involved with athletics and club activities,” Cartner said. “[It's] kind of getting that realization that the time commitment for marching band compared to everything else might not be ideal for them.”

RELATED: 'I was choking back tears': Marching band competition season canceled in Colorado

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

In high school, the weekend competitions begin in September, where marching bands compete against one another, culminating into the state championships in the fall.

Credit: Byron Reed

“These kids deserve something special as well,” Cartner said. “I think you see a lot of high school programs, there’s certain activities that might get the spotlight more, but music, fine arts, all these things that may not be represented as well.”

“This season’s just going right,” Getz added. “We’re doing something right, and we’re going to go on to conquer bigger and better things.”

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

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