Students marching forward and practicing proper technique. Photo by Samuel Snow

By Samuel Snow

The Virgin Valley High School Marching Band starts preparing for performances and competitions during the hot summer months in Mesquite. Not only do the musicians have to perform their music in harmony, but they have to move about following strict commands and creating formations that enhance the overall presentation.

Kendra Graf is the VVHS Band Director and teaches concert band, jazz band, percussion ensemble, pep band, color guard and marching band. She has been directing the VVHS Marching band for 13 years.

“This group is different from other performing groups at the school because they don’t get to take the summers off,” she said. “ In all, the marching band gives up 16 days of their summer vacation for practices at school. We begin at 6 a.m. working to learn and perfect marching techniques, memorize the music, and prepare for the upcoming season. Marching band students are also expected to take time outside of these rehearsals to finish memorizing their music.”

Graf said they refer to the collections of formations that make up the marching band show as “drill.” The students spend the first eight days of band camp learning how to march correctly or learning the basics. This means they have to be able to maneuver around the field while keeping their upper body still or they won’t be able to play their instruments appropriately. After time reviewing basics, they head to their practice field to start learning the drill and putting it together with their music.

The students in marching band work close together and regard themselves as one big family.

“Marching band is one of the places where they accept anyone,” said trombone player Brooke Conley. “When I was younger I used to think, ‘Those silly band geeks.’ However, joining marching band has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Everyone in band is nice and very talented. Doing everything together is so much fun. We spend so much time together working on our music, they are like my little family. Mrs Graf helps us on so much, and I’m very grateful I joined band.”

Marching band starts preparing in the summer to be ready for competitions against other schools in October and November. They will travel to Las Vegas and compete at various locations such as the Sam Boyd Stadium at UNLV, as well as other high schools. In a typical season, the marching band will compete against ensembles from Nevada, California, Arizona, and Utah, Graf said.

“Band has created a lot of friendships and I love the opportunities it has given me,” said percussionist, Hailey Dettra. “ I’m excited for this coming year.”