PENDLETON — The drum majors directed the 115 Pendleton Heights High School Marching Arabians with flashlights Thursday after sunset as they practiced their formations under the street lights in the parking lot.

The voice of band director Chris Taylor, perched in a tower overlooking the lot, gave directions.

“The biggest thing is our first three notes are not together,” he said.

The Class B band, under the leadership of drum majors Megan Dailey, Kenzie DeShong and Rayni Hedback, hopes to perfect its performance enough to place respectably Saturday at the Indiana State School Music Association’s finals competition

Their performance last weekend against 19 competitors at the 2019 ISSMA semistate competition earned them a spot for a second year in a row in the finals. Last year’s band placed ninth out of 10 in their division at finals.

It’s the sixth time — the fifth in a row — the Marching Arabians made it to semistate.

“It’s incredibly exciting. I knew all along that this group was performing better than last year’s,” Taylor said.

Even so, he’s reluctant to hazard a guess whether this year’s band will make its way to the top.

“Nobody can ever predict what’s going to happen. It’s six people’s opinion on one day,” he said.

Taylor said the band started practicing in June.

“It’s a long, slow process of learning the music and building props to come together. It all came together about three or four weeks ago,” he said.

This year’s theme is “Being a Villain,” featuring “On the Waterfront,” “Dan Zon #2,” “Lex” and “Wine Dark Sea.”

“These were kind of dark pieces that brought out this feeling,” Taylor said of the musical selections.

DeShong, 17, said though she is happy to return to the finals, it’s not quite as exciting as the first time.

A former member of the drumline, she said this year’s band seemed to get a slow start toward mastering the program.

“The difficulty was keeping them motivated. That was really hard this season,” she said. “Honestly, I was really scared at the beginning of the season. But three competitions ago, I really saw the band understand.”

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at

@RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

Recommended for you