Band Tunes up Colorado competition
WHEATLAND – As the cool breezes of late summer begin to flood the after-sunset hours, you can see and hear the Wheatland High School band as they practice for halftime shows and competitions.
Last Thursday night they were patiently waiting for the Wheatland Pups to finish their games so they could get their equipment set up and get another practice in before they had to hit the road this past weekend to compete in the Friendship Cup Marching Band Contest.
“I don't give my students enough credit,” said WHS band director Evan Bradley. “The Wheatland High School Band traveled to Englewood, Colorado, yesterday and competed in the Friendship Cup Marching Band Contest. Going down to Colorado I knew was going to be an eye-opening experience for my kids.
Not only does Bradley provide venues out of Wheatland, but valuable life experiences that will last long after they graduate from the high school band. As they play, it’s also an eye-opening sensory overload when this powerful band begins to play.
“I've seen quite a bit of competitive marching band in Colorado, and know how intense those bands are, how good their instruction is, and how Colorado marching bands typically have a Band Director and an Assistant Band Director,” Bradley said. “Sometimes they'll even have a Percussion Instructor, Color Guard Instructor, and the biggest schools have a staff member for Woodwinds, Brass, etc. You get it.
When I made the decision to take students to Colorado for a competition (Wyoming's State Culminating Marching Event is a "Festival"), I knew I was going to have to do some CAREFUL coaching and front loading with the kids so that they understood how different of a world band is south of us so that they weren't devastated by our ranking (especially because we've never been given a "place" in marching band before).”
Bradley who has a close rapport with his students has created a family atmosphere within the Wheatland High School family friendly confines.
“My CAREFUL coaching (ha) talk ended something like ‘guys, we're probably going to get our butts kicked and take last and that's OK, we're going down to learn how those bands do it, get exposure and receive feedback.”
Bradley who instills great confidence in his troops and has earned their respect, expects excellence from them each time they perform in public.
“We had a great time down there and learned so much,” he said. “Then the awards ceremony came.
We competed in class AA (the competition was done based on band size, not school size). There were 10 bands in AA.”
The announcement for last place didn’t go to Wheatland and the little band from Wyoming stood a little taller that afternoon.
“’10th place goes to...’” Bradley said and continued, “It wasn't Wheatland... My eyes got wide and my students all gasped, looked at my face and chuckled. At this point I'm thinking ‘whoa, second to last is really cool for us.’ ‘Ninth place goes to...’ Also, not Wheatland. Then for a second I thought back to my sophomore year in high school when they got score sheets mixed up and thought it was a mistake. It wasn't. ‘Eighth place goes to Wheatland High School from Wheatland, Wyoming!’ My kids lost it! I've never seen a group so thrilled to get eighth place at something.
“I clapped for them and smiled at them and loved seeing the joy in their faces...but I still don't think they get what they accomplished. Wyoming kids can hang with the best of them. Competition is healthy. Wheatland Band is going to keep doing better and better. Raising the bar, working as a team, and having fun doing it. I can't wait for next weekend, and am hoping for seventh this time.”