High school bands strive to be the greatest show on turf

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — It's not just the high school athletes who drill for hours in the searing dog days of August, learning precision routes and fancy footwork so that when their moment comes under the Friday Night Lights, they execute the plays just as they practiced.

Busloads of kids toting a variety of musical instruments also have been rehearsing to once again entertain spectators with the snap, crackle and pop of performances as members of high school bands.

Where else in the flash of a halftime can you groove to the 1960s, revel in Beatlemania, rock 'n' roll with hall-of-famers, experience a dream sequence and even enjoy a cocktail of Vivaldi and Lady Gaga?

Bands throughout western Pennsylvania are putting the final touches on their creative halftime shows.

At Franklin Regional Senior High School, band Director Kevin Pollock was gearing up for a groovy halftime performance.

"We're calling it 'Peace, Love & a Little '60s,'" Pollock said. The show will open with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from the musical "Hair." It will give a nod to 1960s television with the themes from "Get Smart" and "Mission Impossible," and will include tunes from The Beatles.

"The band front is wearing '60s makeup and hair, and the band is going to wear John Lennon-style round sunglasses," Pollock said. "We also decided to have a little fun and, instead of marching hats, we'll be wearing tie-dyed headbands."

For the Fab Four's "Can't Buy Me Love," district parents have created a life-sized version of the famous "LOVE" sculpture in Philadelphia.

"We have a feature for our brass players, and they'll actually climb up into the letters," Pollock said.

The world's most famous mop-tops show up in several shows throughout the region: Apollo-Ridge High School's marching band will perform a "Beatlemania" show.

"The one I really like is a medley of 'Blackbird' and 'Yesterday,'" Director Gavin Virag said. "I just love the way it's written."

That same arrangement, by composer Tom Wallace, also caught Pollock's eye and is part of Franklin Regional's show.

"Most of the tune is 'Yesterday,' but he weaves in little elements of the 'Blackbird' chords," Pollock said. "It's a neat arrangement."

Well-known rock-and-rollers are featured in Greensburg Salem High School marching band's 2018 halftime show as well.

"We're going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for our spring trip," said Director Jaime West. "So our halftime show will be based on Hall of Fame artists."

Bon Jovi, Queen, Elton John, The Beach Boys and Green Day will be featured in the show.

Other schools are taking a less-traditional approach.

At Leechburg Area High School, Director Robert Reams composed two of the pieces that will be part of "In Dreams," a conceptual show in which an actress, on a bed at midfield, interacts with the band and color guard.

"It's about sleeping and dreaming," Reams said. "She has a dream where she conducts various parts of the band, and we're planning to light up each section with LED lights. She gets insomnia and tries counting sheep, and we'll have our color guard creating sheep dancing around the bed."

At Norwin High School, Director Tim Daniels, who graduated from the school in 2008, is in his sixth year at the helm of a unit with a history of national competitive success.

"I don't know if I'd say it was intimidating coming back, but I knew I wanted to maintain the quality we've had over the years," Daniels said.

Norwin is likely the only band whose halftime show will include both Vivaldi and Lady Gaga.

"Our focus is a little bit different because we're a competition band," Daniels said. "So our show, 'Baroque-N,' uses the classical pieces we do in our competitions, but also some pop-oriented things like Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face.'"

With a large group of freshmen, Daniels said this year is a challenge, but one he's definitely up for.

"Our objective is for everyone to look the same when we're on the field," he said. "I always enjoy seeing the growth. Seeing where the younger students were just two or three months ago to where they're at now. It's always great to see them grow by leaps and bounds as they get more familiar with the show."

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Online:

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Information from: Tribune-Review, http://triblive.com


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