Blue Thunder Band takes competition

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Next stop for the Carson High School Blue Thunder Marching Band? Vegas, baby.

Band members took a well-deserved night off Monday after spending Saturday marching to win the Nevada Day parade and then hurrying to Reno to take the State of Nevada Marching Band Championships for the first time in 20 years.

"We nailed it," drum major Samantha Matranga said Monday. "When we went toward the back of the stands so we could come back on the field for the very first time, it was pretty amazing for people to see how big it was. When we got on the field, it really psyched them up."

Carson City's Tom Quigley, who has two daughters in the band, said new band director Robert Brooks has been key in improving the group. Quigley's daughter Christina is a senior who plays trumpet, and sophomore Megan plays the clarinet.

Quigley has watched the band for the past four years and had one word to describe the performance: "Great."

He pointed out that the band has been through some difficult times over the last few years, including the death of band director Larry Holloway in December.

"They've had a real hard time at the band program over the past four years, but the kids really like the teacher they've got now. They compare him with Mr. Holloway, and he knows those are big shoes to fill."

Brooks took over as director in August, and within a month was the target of neighbor complaints about noise. Parents rallied behind the band.

Brooks said the band members deserve all the credit for their victories.

"The kids really made it happen," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, they were winners when we got off the bus. I really stress rehearsal and attitude more than performance, because the only thing we can control is how good we are. We can't control how good other bands are. We can only do the best we can, and hopefully when it's time for the final performance, it comes off the way we want it."

Brooks said band members were tested in the week before their dual winning performances.

"On Wednesday, we were rehearsing in the wind," Brooks said. "It knocked over my observation tower and was blowing tubas across the pavement. I had them put the equipment away and then had a talk about adversity and how to use it to make you stronger. If we can get better under those kind of conditions, there is no excuse for when it is a good day."

On Thursday, the band played in the snow for halftime at the game then the jazz band played in the snow again for trick or treating at the Governor's Mansion.

"Marching band is a tough sport," Brooks said. "It is the ultimate team sport. No one sits on the sidelines, and everyone has to do their job."

Friday, the band leaves for the first overnight trip in six years to attend the Las Vegas Marching Band Invitational at Las Vegas High School.

"We are going up against the big boys there," Brooks said. "That's the kind of thing the band kids and the program need to be exposed to."


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