MINSTER — A group of eight students describes what they agree is the best moment of the season in band.
It’s Homecoming night. The lights go out, they explain, and the crowd, more than the usual number thanks to alumni, starts screaming. The band takes the field in the dark with their instrument and glow sticks, and spells the word “cat” for Wildcat.
The band students call it Script Cats, and it’s a night they look forward to all year, a tradition instituted in the last five to six years after the band grew large enough to make the word.
It’s nice to go to Disneyland, they say, but hearing the cheers at Homecoming is their favorite moment.
“It’s the first time we actually feel appreciated,” Breanna Dahlinghaus said.
The Minster band will seek another form of community appreciation, in the form of $127,102 dollars this year, as they seek to replace 15-20 instruments that are 60 to 107 year old.
Many of the instruments are from the 1950s, now 60 years old, and some are much older. The oldest instrument, a tuba, is from 1906, the year corn flakes and radios went on the market. The tuba has been around for two World Wars, has seen band students sporting flapper dresses, poodle skirts, bell-bottoms, Madonna hair, and slap bracelets.
Hundreds of students have played the instrument, said band director Jen Beair. The instrument has outlived the first people who played it.
While it’s admirable that the tuba held up so well, she said those instruments are costing the school money that’s invested in repairs, and costing the student playing time when the instrument is not in the classroom.
But the thing many people don’t realize, she said, is that these instruments are expensive—$3,000 to $5,000 for one instrument.
These are the unusual instruments, contralto clarinet, bassoon, baritone saxophone, oboes, and tubas that add rich undertones to the music when the concert band plays.
These instruments are often taken up as a challenge by more advanced members of the band who want to learn another instrument.
Minster’s band is 128 students out of 280 students eligible for the program in ninth through 12th grades, almost half of all students.
The students say that one reason they take band is that it’s one of only two fine art options for credit, either band or art class.
The students said they see other schools have more options like choir or drama departments where plays are written for the students.
Several students continue to study music in college by majoring in music education or music therapy, for example, and having another instrument on their applications can be very helpful, said Beair.
She also said that in competitive situations, when auditioning for bands, knowing a less popular instrument can give a student an edge over the competition.
“The concert band is the meat and potatoes of the music education,” she said. “It’s where the students learn the most musically.”
The band also gives the students leadership opportunities, Beair said.
“Definitely when an instrument is out of tune it sticks out,” Hilary Carder said.
“The band is important in general,” Kara Kitzmiller said. “We have pride in it, and we represent Minster well as a whole.”
Sara Dahlinghaus said band helped her transition from junior high to high school. Beair said she sees old members coming back to see the band as it is today, even though they’ve been away for years.
“You don’t just take band for one year,” Peter Morsey said.
“Without it there wouldn’t be any music here,” Kitzmiller said. “It’s something everyone understands. It’s a language — a part of life.”