Somewhere lost among the hype of Richmond Hill High School’s first winning football season since 1996 and first-ever region baseball championship was this:
Year after year, the school’s marching band continues to pile up honor after honor, championship after championship, distinction after distinction.
They’ve got the trophies to prove it.
The band was named a Georgia Honor Band of Distinction in February after a performance at Georgia State University.
It’s won six grand championships in four years, garnered years worth of superior ratings from the Georgia Music Educators Association as both a marching and concert band and has produced more All-State and All-District band members than all RHHS’ sports teams combined.
But all that excellence doesn’t come without hard work, according to Dr. Daniel Kiene, who in the spring was honored with the Citation of Excellence from the National Association of Band Directors.
“These are your high GPA, high-performing kids, but the No. 1 thing it takes is dedication,” Kiene said.
“We practice and perform in the rain, the cold, the heat. We don’t stop because it’s drizzling outside or it’s 100 degrees outside. We can teach any kid to play, but what we can’t teach is dedication. They have to be dedicated to something bigger than themselves.”
One of the band’s three drum majors, Sydney Scooler, knows all about that. Scooler, a senior who is taking five AP courses, had to fight her way back to health after a serious car wreck her junior year just before the band held auditions to be a drum major.
“I don’t think I’ve ever pushed myself so hard for anything in my entire life as I did for this,” Scooler said, talking of weeks spent doing rehab three times a day because she didn’t want to let her bandmates down.
And at band camp, Kiene pointed out a kid wearing a cast who stood on the sideline, like a player too injured to suit up but still wanting to be a point of the team.
“Kids just don’t want to miss practice,” he said. “They don’t want to let their team down.”
Kiene said he doesn’t begrudge athletes their attention. But he’s also quick to point out there are physical demands that come with playing in a band as well.
“Being in concert band, that’s not athletic, but marching band is athletic. These kids are athletes,” he said.
And if you think a high school football playbook is complicated, wait until you see the drill book for a halftime performance in which each of the band’s 130 or more moving parts must perform as many as 90 to 100 “sets,” or choreographed movements, in a nine-minute span while also playing an instrument or twirling a flag or rifle. Try toting and playing a tuba for 30 minutes like Chris George does.
“Their brains are on fire when they’re doing this,” Kiene said. “I can’t help but think this is why so many of our kids are AP and honor students. There’s a correlation between the SAT and arts kids who blow the test out of the water.”
Band teaches as much as it demands, said Scooler and her peers — drum majors Sydney Koenig and Philip Martinez, all musicians who were selected from a group of hopefuls by a panel of band members and teachers.
Scooler, a mellophone player, spoke of time-management skills she’s learned balancing classwork with demands of the band.
Koenig said she’s learned how to get along with a diverse group of people, and Martinez said he’s learned to work harder for what he wants.
“It’s taught me not to slack off, to work and not be lazy,” he said. “It’s taught me to show up.”
All three are among the tops in their class — Koenig hopes to become either a pediatrician or a pediatric nurse. Martinez aims at becoming an economist. Scooler wants to be a part of Drum Corps International, which is the big league in marching band circles.
They’re already at the top of their high school profession and Kiene said he relies on them to make things run smoothly.
“On a day-to-day basis, I tell the drum majors what I want accomplished. They go to the captains, and they in turn go to the section leaders. That way we have student leadership and they have ownership.
“If I need to I’ll step in, but generally I can point them in the direction I want them to go in and the kids run the band.”
Read more in the July 31 edition of the News.