Halftime Is A Warm-Up Act For Marching Bands For Sunset High School's band, Friday night games help prepare for Saturday competitions. That's when band parents and friends cheer for these champions from Portland, Ore., as lustily as football fans and when judges rate musicianship and movement.
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Halftime Is A Warm-Up Act For Marching Bands

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Halftime Is A Warm-Up Act For Marching Bands

Halftime Is A Warm-Up Act For Marching Bands

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You ask for it, you got it.

(Soundbite of school band)

NORRIS: When we began our high school football series Friday Night Lives, many of you wrote in asking for the same thing, a story on marching bands. They are after all a huge part of the Friday night culture.

From Portland, Oregon, NPR's Tom Goldman has this profile of the Sunset High School marching band.

TOM GOLDMAN: I love marching bands.

Mr. GREG HALL (Band Director, Sunset Apollo Marching Band and Auxiliary): So, why don't we give a Sunset welcome to Mr. Goldman.

(Soundbite of applause)

GOLDMAN: Hey, who isn't a (unintelligible) for a tumultuous welcome. But even without the cheers - and I know they're for the publicity I'm giving this appreciative group of teenagers - I still admire them for their ability to turn this�

(Soundbite of musical instruments)

GOLDMAN: �into this.

(Soundbite of musical instruments)

Mr. HALL: Okay. Let's talk a little music.

GOLDMAN: It's about an hour before kick off, a homecoming Friday night at Sunset High. And band director Greg Hall is warming up his musicians. A halftime performance on homecoming weekend is the big deal for some bands, but for these guys, a dress rehearsal.

Mr. HALL: Please keep in mind as we prepare for tonight, next weekend we're back at it.

GOLDMAN: It is Saturday band competition, an event where band, parents and friends cheer as lustily as football fans will tonight where judges will rate musicianship and movement. You try playing a flute quick stepping across the field. And where precision is expected at Sunset since the Apollo Marching Band is the reigning Northwest Association for the Performing Arts AA champion.

(Soundbite of musical instruments)

Mr. HALL: I'm not quite convinced such as that sound. I seriously think, Bruce, I'm really not convinced especially in the alto voice. Let's try harder please. Fast air stream match (unintelligible). Here we go please. Same thing.

(Soundbite of musical instruments)

Mr. HALL: Very good. Good.

(Soundbite of football players)

Unidentified Man #1: Pick it up over here. Pick it up over here. Pick it up.

GOLDMAN: Out on the football field, a decidedly different tone of pre-game, but, says Greg Hall, coaches and band directors share the same mission.

Mr. HALL: We're teachers. Much like there's an offensive line. We have woodwinds, we have brasses, we have percussion. And we're trying to teach our kids how to soar to their potential. Mine just happens to be music.

GOLDMAN: It's a nice thought, football and marching band at the same ilk, separated only by shoulder pads and trumpets. But even Greg Hall, who played high school football once upon a time, knows about the great social divide. Football players, big men on campus. Band members?

Mr. HALL: Kind of nerdy, perhaps. Not in the in crowd.

GOLDMAN: That's past tense says Hall, because today's band members, the ones he directs at Sunset, are in school government. They are athlete. They are top students - although there are those certainly who march to a different saxs.

Mr. BRIAN WHITNEY (Saxophone Section Leader, Sunset Apollo Marching Band and Auxiliary): We're just kind of goofy.

GOLDMAN: Brian Whitney is the saxophone section leader where they are notorious, he says, for their bad work ethic.

Mr. WHITNEY: It is a challenge to get this section to actually get good music out on the field sometimes. But (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of musical instruments)

GOLDMAN: The band gets only 10 minutes for its halftime performance, but it's well received. The 88 members include musicians and color guard - the people waving huge flags and doing choreographed moves with fake rifles and sabers. As the football players reclaim the field, the band hustles off and gathers in a big circle with band alumni assistant Brian Fitzsimmons in the middle.

Mr. BRIAN FITZSIMMONS (Visual technician, Sunset Apollo Marching Band and Auxiliary): It was good. It wasn't great. A lot of foot-timing issues.

Unidentified Woman #1: Okay. And even (unintelligible).

Mr. FITZSIMMONS: Wasn't the best show. Wasn't bad. It was not a bad show. Don't take that away from this. We're hit hard on Monday, and make sure you guys are set for competition next weekend.

GOLDMAN: The different sections meet for their own spin-down sessions. Brian Whitney talks to his saxophone players, the goofy guys, then finishes by telling them to lay down their instruments. He then thrusts his arm into the air and screams.

Mr. WHITNEY: Saxes strike a heroic pose. Heroic pose over.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man #2: All right, guys.

GOLDMAN: After their heroic pose, the saxes follow other band members back to the band room to change. Many then will leave and miss the second half of what ends up being a 37 to nothing Sunset lost. There are victories to prepare for at the next band competition where it certain someone will wear a t-shirt with the message that gets knowing chuckles in the band community. I look forward to the day when football is played at halftime.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

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