Let's hear it for the team
The high school marching band is the soundtrack for the high school football season. A lot of work and fun goes into putting the show together.
Connellsville's Mighty Falcon Marching Band, under the direction of Jim Henigin, can be seen at the weekly football games, supporting the high school team and providing professional entertainment to the fans in the stands.
It's not an easy night for band members. Their night starts way before the football game begins.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m., but band members arrive at Falcon Stadium at 6 p.m. They help upload the equipment and then get into their blue and white uniforms.
And then, it's time to practice.
Anyone walking by the 137 band members prior to the pre-game show will see them tuning their flutes, clarinets, drums, saxophones -- and more. Visitors would hear giggles and some laughter. They'd see camaraderie as the band prepares to go out onto the field and give a top-notch performance for its football team.
"They love to laugh," Henigin said. "You hear a lot of that."
Prior to their performance, the band rallies around the three drum majors for a warm-up session. Members play scales. Then it's time to line up for the pre-game show.
Band members head for the field. Soon, the fans hear the Mighty Falcon Marching Band's rendition of the school's fight song, then "The Star-Spangled Banner," and then the school's alma mater.
The students then entertain the crowd by having six different upperclassmen lead their line in a march in all different directions around the field.
"It's different every time we do it," Henigin said.
The game begins. The band takes to the stands, crowding into the bleachers with eight students in every row. Normally, only five or six can fit in a row, but this band makes due.
Henigin said additional rafters could be set up to make the band members more comfortable, but members didn't want to be separated.
In the stands, the band members automatically start cheering and rooting for the football team. They shed their jackets and hats to be replaced with sweatshirts and ball caps.
"The kids like to cheer and play as much as possible," Henigin said. "They can relax and let loose."
Some watch the game in silence. Some stand and shout. Some talk to their friends. Girls put on makeup. Some sing. Some take photos. Some talk on their cell phones.
Henigin said the band members plays about 14 songs during the game. You can hear them playing when the team scores a touchdown. You will also hear their music between quarters.
"When the defense is in a tight spot, they like us to play the theme to 'Rocky,'" Henigin said.
Henigin also works with the cheerleading captain, telling her what the band will play in the stands so they can cheer in sync.
The band remains in the stands until two minutes into the second quarter. The members then put their uniforms back on and return to their practice area to warm up again -- playing scales and practicing their tunes for the half-time show.
The half-time show is taught during the summer band camp. The same show is used throughout the football season -- with only a few changes added during the season.
Henigin said this season's half-time show is one that will move the crowd. Songs include "Takin' it to the Street" by the Doobie Brothers, "Back in Black" by AC/DC and a solo from the drum line. The show closes with the Latin song, "Malaguena."
Drum majors Brittney Grimm, Megan Pinkosky and Alysia Cornish all agree the half-time show is the best part of football season for the band.
"Half-time is always my favorite," Grimm said.
While all three drum majors are seniors, they still experience some anxiety.
"Everyone is watching you -- especially when you're on the podium conducting," Cornish said.
"The first game is nerve-racking," Pinkosky said.
With half-time over, band members return to the stands to energize the crowd and the players with fight songs and popular music.
"It's a lot like college football," Henigin said. "The band is part of a motivational thing because people here have friends and family on the field."