Fabulous Marching Cavaliers reflect on a unique season

Katherine Haden, Staff Writer

PA’s marching band, the Fabulous Marching Cavaliers (FMC), finished its season with the state championships in November. They won 2nd place in their group (divided by band size), as well as Best General Effect and Best Percussion.

Director of Bands John Boyd would like to debunk the myth that marching band only involves marching an instrument around a field: according to him, it’s more like an “outdoor performance ensemble,” as shows can mix a variety of musical genres and styles. This year’s show, which included a rap battle, stand-up comedy, and audience karaoke, embodied that idea.

The theme sprung from a desire to showcase the best players in the band, and evolved through several iterations (including a fiery school board meeting and a poetry reading) into “Open Mic,” ultimately a call for unapologetic self-expression.

Boyd hopes that in the future, judges will be more accepting of shows that are “outside the box” and don’t fit the traditional marching band formula: “The judging community would always say ‘this is very different, very unique,’ but they just didn’t really know how to judge it.”

“Our future shows will be more in that box, because we want to give the kids a chance to really experience what marching band is about, but still also be fun–it was a really fun show for everybody,” said Boyd.

This sentiment is echoed among the members of the band, as junior Sadie Ford, this season’s Flute/Clarinet section leader and Junior Drum Major (soon to be Drum Major next year), said the show was “fun, but different; kind of hard to get used to.”

Junior Jacob Long, this season’s Tuba section leader and Junior Field Captain, thought the show was “creative, and it…stood out in comparison to a lot of other things that we’ve done in the past and a lot of the shows around the state.”

Junior Jeremy Coonley, this season’s Baritone section leader, thought “the season may have been able to go better competitively, but we still had a fun time; it was a fun show.”

Senior Sam Saunders, this season’s Drum Major (the student conductor and leader of the band), agreed that the show was out of the ordinary but thought the band “made it work”: “That group was one of the hardest-working groups I’ve ever seen in my life–they were committed to what they were doing and you could tell when they were on the field that they were putting forth their best effort, and I was really proud of them and what they accomplished.”

Boyd also hopes to keep rebuilding the number of students in the band, which dropped during COVID but is slowly climbing back up, as well as to continue the “high quality and traditions of the band.”

Students may be hesitant to join FMC because they have no experience marching or playing an instrument, but according to Boyd, the band is all about teaching: “We just need people who aren’t afraid, who’ve got no problem…having something new, challenging, [and] unique put in front of them.”

The FMC has further advice for prospective members:

Saunders: “Stick it through; give it your best shot.”

Coonley: “Show up and be on time…if you don’t show up you’ll miss a lot of stuff because we have long rehearsals and we get a lot done, so just missing one rehearsal sets the entire group back.”

Ford: “If you’re hesitant to join, you should just go ahead and do it, because you will not regret it…it is a lot of time, but it is more fun than you’re probably expecting, and you’re going to meet a whole bunch of great people.”

Long: “We are very close-knit, so if you’re stressed about finding friends in the FMC, it won’t be a problem. We spend a lot of time together and we get to know each other, and then we also work very hard together.”

Boyd emphasized the benefits of belonging to something bigger, as well as the deep bonds that marching band can foster: “We don’t spend one year in a class together–these kids will spend four years together doing incredibly meaningful, artistic things, exploring an entire deeper side of themselves than they would [be] just learning facts and figures.”

With lengthy rehearsals and competitions four days a week, marching band is a big time commitment, but that is what allows it to teach skills beyond what’s learned in a classroom: “It has definitely taught me hard work and dedication,” said Coonley.

“For the past four months, [marching band] has been like my whole life…so I can’t really imagine a life without it now,” said Ford. Next year, she hopes that the band will become more unified and that she’ll be able to grow closer to people outside her current friend group.

“I’ve met a lot of friends through marching band,” said Long. “It gives me something additional that I look forward to being able to do.”

In line with many other members of the FMC, Saunders is looking forward to what the future has in store: “I cannot wait to see what the band does next year.”