A full orange moon rose slowly overhead Monday night as young performers marched across Brunswick High School’s field. Four more than two hours, their music swelled and their brightly colored flags fluttered in a chilly breeze.
“You can just feel the vibe in the air tonight,” said Scott Murphy, Frederick County Public Schools’ director of curriculum, instruction and innovation. He smiled as he looked around.
Each of FCPS’ 10 high schools participated in the county’s annual Marching Band Festival on Monday evening.
The event is special, participants said, because it allows students from across the county to appreciate each other’s work without the pressure that comes along with a competition setting.
Plus, since FCPS high schools and bands vary so much in size, many of the 10 bands never encounter one another in competitions.
Kate Hartinger, a junior and the assistant color guard captain for Middletown High School’s band, said she looks forward to watching each school’s performance at the showcase each year.
Middletown’s program this year is inspired by “The Greatest Showman,” featuring shimmery red costumes and songs from the film.
Each school chose a distinct theme for the season, which informed their song and costuming choices. Other themes on display Monday included Día De Los Muertos, Elton John and Jimi Hendrix.
Searlait Hoyt, a freshman member of Middletown’s front ensemble, said she was nervous before performing Monday. The bleachers were packed with hundreds of people. Hoyt said it represented “the biggest crowd that pays attention” she’s ever encountered.
She paused, considering the band’s usual halftime performances during Friday night football games, then added with a laugh: “The student section is not very polite.”
That’s another reason the annual festival is important, attendees said. The students get to play for an audience that came out just to hear their music.
“This night is 100% for them,” Murphy said.
Natalie and Shane Eyler brought their 7-year-old daughter, Anastasia, to the festival to hear drums and xylophones, her favorite instruments.
Anastasia is visually impaired, her parents said, and she has a burgeoning love for percussion.
She sat curled in her dad’s lap Monday, wrapped in a blanket and listening intently to the staccato beats emanating from the field.
Liam Wood, a senior trumpet player at Oakdale High School, said it was sad to think Monday was his last countywide festival.
Wood isn’t planning to study music in college, but he said he wants to keep playing.
“Marching band has really cemented in me a love for playing the trumpet,” he said.
As the performances wound to a close and the air got colder, Wood reflected on his four years in the band.
“I like the energy of showcases more than competitions,” he said. “We’re working as a team. No one’s focused on a score. It’s more focused on group effort and just enjoyment of the show.”
Fellow Oakdale trumpet player Alex Powers agreed.
“I just like the feeling of walking off the field and feeling like you’ve really made an impact,” he said. “That’s what we all strive for.”