By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — The beating of drums, the blaring of horns, the flapping of flags as they wave in the air. If you didn't know, it's the start of competition season for Madison County's marching bands.
Each is participating in competitions of its choosing leading up to the big contest at the Indiana State Fair's Band Day Aug. 2. All of Madison County's bands will perform that day. The top 16 in the state will be the ones competing in the evening.
Many band and guard members have been practicing for weeks, spending a few hours of their day in the hot sun learning music and memorizing drills.
In Anderson, the Marching Highlanders have already competed in one contest, taking fourth at the Archway Classic in Centerville.
"We're excited about the students' work and we're excited about the progress," Anderson High School Band Director Brad Milleman said.
This year, 84 students are marching to the music of Dreamworks' "How to Train Your Dragon" with the theme "Dragon of Legends." The show is about celebrating the name of a dragon, so it never comes back.
For students who participate in marching band, its about a passion for music.
Percussionist Zach Abbott said it feels good to show off the band's music repertoire. And the band environment itself is what kept him coming back.
"It's an awesome feeling," he said. "I love every minute of it."
"When that first note hits," guard member Allison Smitherman said, it's time to put on the best show they can.
"I love performing," Smitherman said, an echoing sentiment of many band members.
For many performers, it's also about making their town and school proud.
Marching bands like Anderson's run on volunteers. The 84 marchers are only about half the full size of the school's band during the academic year, Milleman said.
They "truly do make the band program strong," he added, and are a dedicated bunch, along with some parents who put in hours to sew costumes, serve meals and set up props.
With all the time a band spends together, co-drum major Conner Olesky said, they "become like a big family." He added that there are a lot of memories built over the years.
A typical week consists of 30 hours of practice along with a full day of competition on the weekend. With temperatures soaring into the 90s, Milleman said outside hours can be tough.
But the kids march through it.
Milleman added that he's seen significant improvements between each competition in the past.
The first contest performance was good, he said, and he's excited to see how the members do Saturday at Muncie Southside High School.
The Frankton High School Marching Eagles will be competing today in the Jay County Fair Lions Band Contest in Portland and joining Anderson in the Spirit of Sound competition in Muncie on Saturday.
Olesky said Centerville wasn't their best run, but that landing in the top five, just 1.5 points away from a second, was encouraging.
"Not one person can be the entire band," said co-drum major Collin Pratt. "The band comes together for one common goal."
Trumpet player Demetrius Peoples said he loves seeing all the pieces come together.
"It's always, at the end of the day, about looking forward to the next, to see what you can accomplish," he said.
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