Douglas High School marching band wins sweepstakes
December 2, 2006
The Douglas High School marching band has taken first-place awards in every competition it has participated in this fall, making it one of the most successful seasons in school history.
But the highlight of the season has to be when “The Pride of the Carson Valley” came out the best of 47 bands and won the grand sweepstakes trophy at the Tournament of Champions street and field competition in Fairfield, Calif., on Nov. 18.
“Winning the grand sweepstakes means we were the best marching band in both street and field,” said Douglas music director Bill Zabelsky. “This was the first time we were first in the street competition.
“In 2004, it was the first time we got sweepstakes at Fairfield and we were surprised because we thought it was usually awarded to the bigger bands. This proves 2004 wasn’t a fluke.”
Victory was even sweeter because they came out ahead of their major area competition, McQueen High School. Douglas’ band and pageantry is made up of 64 members, while Zabelsky estimates McQueen is twice the size with about 140 members.
“In the street competition, we finished first (McQueen was fourth), and in total points we beat them by 4.8 points,” said Zabelsky.
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He said he was disappointed when the football team didn’t beat McQueen.
“But we did,” said drum major Andy Martin.
The field competition is performed like a half-time show, as in the McQueen Extravaganza, the Galena Performance of Champions and the University of Nevada, Reno Sierra Band Crusade competitions, at which Douglas finished well this year.
The parade competition is like the Nevada Day parade, when Douglas was best in state this year. Points combined in both the field and parade events resulted in Douglas coming out on top of the 47 schools from Nevada and California that competed at the Fairfield Tournament of Champions.
Other Nevada schools that competed in Fairfield were Galena High School, which didn’t compete in the parade portion, and McQueen.
Zabelsky said the band wouldn’t have won the sweepstakes award if Andy Martin had kept up the tradition of the Douglas drum major dropping his baton during competition.
Martin said the competition was nerve-racking, but he wasn’t as nervous as he was last year. The music the band played during their half-time shows made a difference. While most bands play military music for field competition, Douglas chose 1970s rock.
“I really liked the Doors show we did this year,” said Andy. “It’s music you can dance to. It appealed to everyone because they knew it.”
Douglas played a concert-style march for the 450 feet of Fairfield’s street competition. Bands are judged on how well they stay in step, if their lines and diagonals are straight, on the performance of the drum major, on the group’s appearance, and how well they play.
Some of the band’s pageantry division is made of band members who carry flags and banners during marching season. Kaitlin Sella plays baritone saxophone in concert band, and has been a flag captain since eighth grade.
“It’s harder to be a flag girl, there’s fewer of us,” said Kaitlin. “If you make a wrong move, their eyes are going there. It’s a visual thing.”
Kaitlin’s parents, Aldo Sella, a self-described “old band geek who is a major fix-it guy,” and Lisa Sella, alias “Mary Poppins,” who never misses a practice, are part of the army of family members who help keep the band department running.
“I couldn’t do this without all the parents’ help,” said Zabelsky. “Parents do all the uniforms for the choirs and the band. Davelyn Miyashiro, along with her 91-year-old mom Sally, sew the uniforms. There are so many that help – too many to name. All that’s left for me to do is to just blow my whistle.”
The sweepstakes trophy from the Tournament of Champions joins the group of other awards the marching band has racked up in previous years.
“You could tell the band was going to be great this year,” Zabelsky said. “They did everything we asked. They’re musically talented, like when you get someone like Marianne, who plays two instruments.
“We can expect a lot from next year’s group.”
The Douglas music department will present a holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the high school. The Image Jazz Choir, the Madrigals, concert choir and concert band will all perform.