"Let's watch as our band is assimilated."
They act as one unit on the field, but the Youngsville Marching Eagles have been distinguishing themselves all season.
Through three competitions, the band was undefeated. At each of those events, Youngsville, with marching members in grades 7 through 12, not only won its small-school group, but scored higher than every other band, even much larger bands that include only senior high school students. There were about 11 bands at each event.
The Youngsville Marching Eagles, headed for regional competition
Last weekend, at the Chapter Championships in Connellsville, the stakes were high. Another victory would assert the band's pre-eminence in an expanse that stretches from Warren County at the northeast, due south to the West Virginia line, includes Pittsburgh, and even stretches into Ohio. It would also secure the group a berth in the nine-state Atlantic Coast Championships.
As they awaited their 14 minutes on the field, there was a mix of confidence and nervousness among the band members.
"I wanted to go out there and show everybody what we could do," Chandler Flinn said.
Photos by Brian Ferry
The Youngsville High School Marching Eagles rehearse a tournament routine in the parking lot in preparation for a regional competition coming up in Hershey.
"I was extremely nervous," Ashley Morris said.
"I knew we were going to take first," Dustin McClellan said.
"I forgot everything, every single thing we were supposed to do," Alex Morris said.
The confidence, practice and experience won out.
After hearing that they had scored an 89.5, their best result of the year, the nerves were gone, replaced by a different mix of emotions.
"I felt like I was about to cry," Persephanie Harkins said.
"I felt indestructible," Kayla Bullock said.
"I didn't feel like I was going to throw up anymore," Brandon Peters said.
"I was so proud," Paige Reilly said. "I love being in this band."
Despite the many successes, Director Cynthia Scheid, Percussion Instructor Don Hulihan and Guard Instructor Merri Anne Kays will not let the band members rest on their laurels.
Throughout the year, the show has grown and improved. "We do changes every week," Scheid said. "Everything that you do is another level of difficulty."
The students have been up to that challenge.
"This is just a magical group of kids," Scheid said. "They work well together."
The older, more experienced students help the younger. "Our section leaders have been just awesome," she said. "They've taken (the younger members) under their wings."
She credits that leadership and the efforts of the staff with much of the band's excellence.
Of course, there is hard work involved, too.
Scheid's preparation for this year's show began in January, according to Youngsville Eagles Instrumental Boosters President Ruth McClellan.
The students practiced from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week for two weeks prior to the first day of school.
The band continues to practice as a group on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the end of the school day until 6 p.m. and broken down into sections for the same time period on Wednesdays.
Fund-raising to support the band's many travels is ongoing work.
McClellan said the band is thankful for the support and contributions from the community, singling out the Youngsville American Legion including the women's auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion, State Rep. Kathy Rapp, Northwest Savings Bank, Blair, and Grandma and Grandpa Van Ord. Scheid's parents attend all of the band's events and "treat members like their grandchildren," McClellan said. "They do a lot for the band."
Next weekend, the undefeated band will take on an unfamiliar role - underdog.
The Eagles are headed for Hershey for the Atlantic Coast Championships seeded eighth out of 25 Group I bands invited to participate.
According to Brittany Gesin, unofficial band statistician, the Eagles scored a 79.6 (out of 100) at its first competition of the year, at Eisenhower, winning the caption awards for auxiliary and percussion. In DuBois, the band scored an 85.15, taking awards for the best visuals and drum major. At the Youngsville Northern Exposure show, they scored an 86.35, earning the captions for percussion and auxiliary. In McKeesport, they received an 87.5.
At each event, including the Chapter Championship, Youngsville was the highest scoring band overall. At last week's show, the judges awarded the Eagles captions for visual effect, percussion and best music.
That music is made up of three pieces written for and owned by the Marching Eagles: the Creation, Learning, and Assimilation. The show's theme is "Artificial Intelligence - Half Man, Half Machine" and from time to time the musicians march as robots while the band front works to escape from the tubes that transform them into cyborgs.
They may wish for some mechanical parts over the next few weeks.
The band will perform at the Youngsville at Saegertown football game on Friday, Nov. 5. The members will be at the school "bright and early" the following morning for the trip to Hershey. They get to enjoy some of the attractions there on Saturday. They will perform on Sunday and should arrive at home at about 3 a.m. Monday.
There is no school on Monday, November 8. That will give the students a break before they have to get on buses again. On Tuesday, they travel to New York City for a four day trip including performing in the Veterans Day Parade of Pride.