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Bottom Left Photo: Domingo Gonzalez (center) with fellow band members rallying the serpentine at Homecoming 2012.
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Balancing Act | Student Marching Band Members Juggle Academics with Practice and Performances
By Lisa Laughlin
The Sound of Idaho seems to be everywhere— at pep rallies, parades, athletic events, and more. It’s thrilling to see the over 200 band members working as a collective music group, but it takes a lot of time to create that look of unison. The students who make up the Sound of Idaho put in many hours, and it can be a challenge to balance a full-time college load with Marching Band travel and performances. Here’s the story of two Vandal Marching Band members, Senior Ariel Parkhurst and Junior Domingo Gonzalez.
Originally from Payette, Idaho, Ariel Parkhurst is majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in music. She joined Idaho’s Marching Band as a freshman in 2009, and is now a section leader of the Color Guard.
“I think the biggest challenge that I have is juggling work and football games,” said Parkhurst. “When it comes to regular football games, I generally try and get all my homework done before Saturday or I set aside my Sundays for homework. As far as travelling with the band goes, it’s not uncommon to see students doing homework on the bus.”
While Parkhurst also participated in the Color Guard in high school, every year she’s faced different challenges at the college level, whether it was increasing her practice time or learning how to read field instructions (drill).
“The University of Idaho writes and learns drill different than almost any band. We learn drill in squads, as groups of about four. Each squad has one leader who tells its members where to be, and how long it will take to get there,” she said.
And even after that drill is learned, they must coordinate to move fluidly as a group.
“As a section leader it is my responsibility to make sure that the members of my section know the choreography for the shows, as well as where they are supposed to be on the field,” said Parkhurst. “One of the biggest challenges is communication, because although we are a part of the band we do different things at times, and during rehearsals that can get a little confusing.”
But she says that it’s the people who make the challenges worth the effort.
“I think my favorite part of Color Guard is the people I get to work with . . . I’m so proud of all of the members of this Guard, [and] I really feel like this year has been an exceptional year for us,” she said. “We’ve been able to perform more difficult choreography, and it’s all because of the dedication of our members.”
And of course, the performances are when the hard work pays off.
“My favorite place to perform has been the Kibbie Dome . . . when we perform I’m so concentrated on what I’m doing that I just block out everything but the music,” said Parkhurst. “I think the greatest reward of performing in front of thousands of people is that you are getting the chance to represent the University in a very visible way.”
Domingo Gonzalez, who plays the Sousaphone and is also a section leader. Originally from Cashmere, Washington, Gonzalez is majoring in Music Education with a Jazz emphasis, and plays Classical Guitar for his studio instrument. This will be his second year involved in Idaho’s Marching Band.
“If there’s a problem with a song being memorized or drill being learned, it’s my duty as a section leader to be there early or stay a little later, and even hold sectionals in order to help get things done,” said Gonzalez. “School work always comes first and I usually have to sacrifice time with my friends or family in order to get homework, readings or projects done the day or even a week before games or travelling.”
But he feels the dedication and time commitment are ultimately worth it.
“I had a friend Danny Bell [Sousa and Vandal Alumni] once say to me, if you are not going to fully commit to something then you obviously do not want to do it. I take that as something to live by because hard work and flexibility in all aspects are necessary in order to live in this world,” he said.
And once game day comes around, his hard work pays off in front of thousands of people.
“You practice so much in the dome during class, but during the game the ambiance is incomparable,” he said. “I feel that while we all do get some form of dome fright, it’s all in the ensemble that keeps you sane. You aren’t performing it just for yourself—you are performing it for everyone else.”
Gonzalez’s love for performing for others has helped him make an impact on potential future Vandals.
“As Spencer Martin has put it for me, when we perform or even when we practice we are changing someone’s life for the better,” he said. “That’s why at the end of the day, even if the whole thing was tiring, performing at schools is probably my favorite place to do so. Seeing a whole bunch of younger kids and future generations look up to you and getting fired up is what keeps me doing what I’m doing.”
Lessons learned through Marching Band have also helped Gonzalez prepare for the future.
“I’ve learned in the time I’ve been here to realize that things happen for a reason and that we always have doors open for opportunity and improvement. My time management and personal well-being have skyrocketed thanks to the involvement in the band, and I network with so many people inside the school,” said Gonzalez. “It’s all a part of growing up and managing your time so that you are ready to leave school and prepared to handle a career down the road.”
He hopes that his career will involve teaching and being able to direct a marching band or any ensemble. Until then, he will continue to passionately devote himself to the Sound of Idaho.
“[The University of Idaho Marching Band] is one of the best collegiate marching bands to be in this side of the Rockies,” he said. “This is our university, this is our band, our work is also our playtime and we don’t quit at halftime!”
Other Marching Band Activities this Fall
MARCHING BAND FESTIVAL
The Idaho Marching Band travelled to Boise (October 19 and 20) to perform at the Treasure Valley Festival of the Bands to recruit middle and high school students and share their sound with the general public.
“It is one of the largest high school Marching Band festivals in the state so it will give us exposure to well over 1,000 music students and potential future Vandals who would never get a chance to see or hear us otherwise,” said Idaho Marching Band Director Spencer Martin.
The Sound of Idaho performed for students of Payette High School and Middle School, Vallivue Middle School in Caldwell, and Sage Valley Middle School in Nampa. They also performed Friday night on the Basque Block in downtown Boise for alumni.
In addition to finishing the Vandal Home Football games, the tuba section also has their annual Tubaween concert on Halloween, October 31 at the Haddock Performance Hall. The Theme this year is TubAvengers!
LEGACY CONCERT and BANQUET
The Marching Band will perform the Legacy Concert and Banquet on November 16 at the Hartung Theater, which will be a “thank you” to the University and Moscow community. Donations will be accepted at the door, and the proceeds will go to the community food drive. This is the first year for this event, but they hope to make it an annual event.
STAY TUNED . . . according to Spencer Martin, there may be a few more surprise appearances throughout the year.