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Marching band completes competition season

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:17 p.m.
The Southmoreland marching band at a halftime performance at Russ Grimm Field in October. Kelly Vernon | Independent-Observer

The Southmoreland High School Marching Band started preparing for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association competition season well before it began, all the way back in June during band camp.

“I change things and add components, whether visual or musical to keep the kids interested and it gives them the opportunity to grow,” stated Jamie Gore, the band's director.

The band competed in five PIMBA events this year in Class AA against Blackhawk, Deer Lakes, Fox Chapel and McGuffey high schools at various locations. Scores are judged in three major criteria: visual, general effects and music.

Southmoreland kicked the season off in great fashion, placing first in the initial competition Sept. 8 at Kiski with a score of 69.38.

Southmoreland rode the success of the initial competition to second-place finishes at East Allegheny Sept. 22 with a score of 74.35, and at Norwin Oct. 6 with a score of 75.40. The competition at Norwin featured Southmoreland attaining high general effects with its score. An Oct. 13 competition at Gateway saw the band achieve high general effects and high music.

Despite what Gore called the band's best performance of the season during the championship competition Nov. 3 at Penn-Trafford High School, Southmoreland placed fifth with a score of 76.03.

“The priority this year was to make it more engaging for the audience, as well as the band, by changing each performance to some degree, commented Gore. “Championships was their best performance of the season by far. The low score will be fuel to keep them motivated for next year.”

The musical selections the band played were “Dreams of a New World,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Jurassic Park” and “New World Symphony.” Gore's husband Jude arranged and composed the music. Belle Vernon High School Band Director Mark Surovchak created the percussion arrangement.

It is a tough balance, according to Gore. “A lot of spectators would prefer rock or pop musical selections, but that doesn't have a lot to offer to for the students to advance musically,” she added. Gore also tries to select music the students would enjoy.

“I'm really proud of the band. I thought we put on good shows this year,” stated drum major Elaina Kauffman, 17.

Kauffman, a senior, has been in the band since eighth grade and plans to pursue a degree in music therapy at Baldwin Wallace University near Cleveland after graduation.

The band took longer to learn and perfect the show this year. It was a young band and will lose several seniors next year. However, the band will have a strong foundation for the coming years.

“I couldn't have asked for a better band or section this year. They all put in the maximum effort,” affirmed Kendal Fike, 17, commanding officer and clarinet section leader.

Fike, a five-year band member, plans to attend Gannon University to pursue a degree in pediatric medicine. He plans to continue his musical interests, possibly playing in the school's wind ensemble or other places outside college after graduation.

The band is heading toward honors season with 19 students auditioning for Indiana University of Pennsylvania's honors band Saturday.

Kauffman and Janae Cunningham will perform with Pennsylvania Music Educators Association honors jazz band Dec. 14-15 at Seton Hill. The following students will perform with the district band: Kauffman, Fike, Stephanie Firestone, Mallory Garsteck, Taylor Gephart, Heather Johnson, Jared McCargo, Michael Stone and Grant Washington.

“It is nice to see so many students showing an interest in joining band next year as marching season is wrapped up,” concluded Gore.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or