The summer rain fell on the turf and dripped off the metal of the tubas, but still the Stillwater High marching band kept in step.
Thursday morning, one of the few times it has rained in the past few weeks, SHS band director Kevin Zamborsky and his 2019 group of about 155 students were practicing in earnest for marching season.
It was the fourth day the band has been back and so far, Zamborsky said the veterans have fallen back into a groove and the large number of newcomers is picking things up fairly quickly.
“Obviously, the majority of the band is veterans, but those people who are new are doing a great job so far,” Zamborsky said. “We had a few practices in the spring and they retained stuff from then.”
With school right around the corner, Zamborsky is hoping to get the band’s halftime show locked down before Stillwater’s first home football game on Sept. 13 against Norman North.
The theme of this year’s show is 88, the number of keys on a piano, as the Pioneers will include songs from classics such as Chopsticks and music from Sergei Rachmaninoff to modern pianists in Billy Joel and Elton John.
“There will be a little bit of something for everybody in the show,” Zamborsky said. “Hopefully it will be a concept that is easy to pick up on. That is what our show is about and overall for the season, we are just looking for our kids to have a good time and an enjoyable year.”
The football halftime shows are a big part of marching season, but Stillwater is also training hard to do well at a litany of contests the Pioneers will partake in throughout the fall.
“We open the contest season on the last Saturday in September at Owasso,” Zamborsky said. “Then the next week, the first Saturday in October, we are at Mustang and then the next at Tulsa Union. Then, we have a couple of weeks off and will do the OSU homecoming parade in there. Then. We finish the season on the first Saturday in November at the Oklahoma Band Master’s Association Championships in Owasso this year.”
With the success of the football team in recent years, especially as Stillwater made the state championship game last year for the first time in nearly 40 years before losing to Bixby, the band members say games have become more enjoyable.
“When the football team is doing well, the band is doing well,” Cameron Jenkins said. “The band is its own thing, half of the people in the band have no idea if the football team is good. But when we can tell they are doing well, that makes the band that much more excited and loud. It is the best.”
Jenkins, a senior who plays French horn in the concert season but uses a mellophone in marching band, said he is excited about band practice starting up again for the social aspect.
With Jenkins playing an instrument that is in the brass family but kind of blurs the line between woodwinds, he likes his group’s parts in the songs.
“Parts of the show, we will be with the brass section and play this big, loud brass stuff,” Jenkins said. “Maybe a few bars later, we will be doing this light, delicate woodwindish line.”
Zahmiriah Johnson, a senior as well who plays the bass drum, has one of the most important jobs on the field. Usually, the bass and snare drums keep the tempos up that the rest of the band abides by.
“I think it is very important, but I think the importance of keeping everybody in line is equally shared throughout the sections,” Johnson said.
Johnson does like how Zamborsky has arranged the show musically, because it gives a chance for her friend, Chloe Kelly, to shine on the piano.
Becca Lawson, a freshman flutist, also enjoys the arrangement as she said it will bring more of a connection with the audiences when the band performs.
“It is bringing back the old generation of music that people really enjoy and we don’t see much anymore,” Lawson said. “I think parents and friends will really enjoy the show this year because of the older music and what Mr. Z has put together.”
Annie Koh, a junior who is also a woodwind player in the clarinet section, appreciates having a director like Zamborsky who cares about the product on the field.
“He is very passionate about the things he does and he takes so much effort into the music he makes and the show,” Koh said. “I think that shows how much effort we need to put in. it is really inspiring to see him work with us.”
Zamborsky hopes to have the band ready and thinks the crowds will really enjoy the final product with the music, as well as the showmanship.
“It is going to be a standard show so there will be a mixture of drill where we are marching and will have body and dance work,” Zamborsky said. “That is the way the activity has shifted the past few years so it is more artistic as opposed to militaristic like marching bands used to be.”