Marching bands compete in Clipper Invitational

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Oct. 14, 2013
Drum Major Ryan Peterson leads the Clipper Marching Band off the field after competition. Photos by D. Coffey.
Drum Major Ryan Peterson leads the Clipper Marching Band off the field after competition. Photos by D. Coffey.

Band Director Richard Chiappetta watched as his Viking Marching Band performed at the 14th Annual Clipper Invitational on Oct. 12. The band's performance was a seven-song tribute to the Beatles, complete with a yellow submarine and Sergeant Pepper glasses for Drum Major Brigid Horan.

“Be beautiful!” Chiappetta yelled. He paced on the sidelines as the band moved from one song and drill to another. During the short silences, he yelled out encouragement and kudos. And once, he willed them to slow down. “It’s too fast,” he muttered. Then the color guard picked up their flags. “That looks nice,” he said.

Their performance was over in 10 minutes. After Horan saluted the judges, she took her band off the field. They moved in crisp step and neat formation past the judges, the audience and all the way to the parking lot.

While they were leaving, a crew rushed to pack up the pit instruments and the platform. All trace of the Vikings was gone in minutes. Then the next band marched onto the field. They took their positions. Another platform was put in place. Color guard members put their flags and props in place. The drum major took the stand, and the competition began anew.

The Clipper Invitational is a U.S. Bands competition that allows area bands a chance to perform in front of qualified judges. Bands are judged on overall effect, ensemble music, on-field music, individual music and visual performance. Bands are grouped in classes according to the number of students in the band as well as their experience. Saturday’s competition brought together several different classes. But each band received feedback appropriate to its class.

“The mission of U.S. Bands is to take high school kids and give them feedback, constructive criticism and educational comments on becoming better performers and musicians,” said U.S. Bands judge Robert Glover. That feedback is geared to the size and type of class performing.

Glover walked the sidelines for each of the performances, recording comments as he went. The tapes of his comments, and the comments of the other judges, would be shared with band directors after the competition. The goal is to make the students better performers and the band directors better teachers.

While marching band competitions may have grown out of football game performances, they have morphed into what Glover calls an educational and sports activity that teaches time management, goal setting, personal responsibility, and discipline. “These kids are out there 10 minutes straight, at 180 beats a minute, playing Shostakovich and movie music, and they are doing it at a very high level,” Glover said.

Chiappetta agreed. “Band members are musical athletes,” he said. “If you watch what they’re doing, it’s not easy.”  At one point in the performance, the drum line did a crab step, moving while keeping their instruments facing the audience. It’s a crucial move for smaller bands, Chiappetta said. The crab step allows the musicians to keep their instruments – and their sound – pointed at the crowd.

And unlike a high school sports team, every band member is a first stringer. “If one person isn’t keeping up, it affects the whole organization,” Glover said. “Everyone has to be on same page.”

NFA Band Director Kristen Motola was pleased to be back in Putnam. “This is one of our favorites because everyone is so supportive and encouraging. We love coming to Putnam,” she said.

Norwich Free Academy and the Killingly, Fitch, South Hadley, East Lyme and Putnam High schools received trophies.

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