A Blessing in Disguise: Balancing Band with Athletics


MHS Varsity Dance team performs at half time during the first football game on September 2, 2016 against Elgin. photo submitted by Joselle Escobar

Joselle Escobar, Staff Reporter

On Friday nights during football season, it’s a struggle to find the silver lining while sprinting across the football field for the half time show in nearly 20 degree weather in pouring rain while wearing a tank top.

For some of us, though, this is a reality.

I have been juggling marching band and varsity dance team on Friday nights since I was a sophomore, and it has always been an exhilarating experience I never got sick of.

The struggles to go back and forth between dance team and marching band are many but the difficulties to do both at the same time was never truly that important to me.

Days were long as I had to stay at the school from the beginning of first period to the last minute of the football game, transition from school wear to my dance team uniform and also bring my instrument back and forth throughout the game.

On top of that, I served as a section leader for marching band, so it was always important for me to be responsible and to model good behavior during these long game days while also leading warm up and music rehearsals for the saxophone section.

The hardest part for me personally was toughing out the below 40 degree temperatures, heavy downfalls, and simply bad weather during most games while in my dance team tank top all night. Difficult weather does make these nights more uncomfortable and stressful when running between dance and band, but I always knew that I had friends who looked out for me, and I knew the fun parts heavily outweighed the bad parts.

Other students with multiple interests in MHS often struggle with balancing all of their commitments during and after school, too.

Several other students encountered difficulty during marching band season, considering the number of students who participate.  MHS has one of the largest high school marching bands in the Midwest with around 250 students across the grades participating.

It becomes a struggle when some of the marching band members also participate in another fall sport, which can create eventful days for those students who have conflicting commitments on Friday nights.

Abram Nazario, junior, was a part of the varsity football team and played the trumpet in marching band. Successful in both band and football, Nazario recognized the difficulties he had to face attempting to balance both.

“I still have to do all the marching stuff  for band but then also have to go to practices for football, but this year it’s a little harder for me to do halftime and pregame,” said Nazario.

During the pregame, the marching band lines up next to the inflatable entrance to play the fight song as the football players come running out onto the field. After two periods of the game, the football players usually huddle off the field as the band and dance team perform for the halftime show.

Nazario had to prioritize football to play for the team, which meant not marching with the band during pregame and halftime but still making sure to fulfill his other commitments for marching band.

Nazario participated in marching band rehearsals during school and in competitions on the weekends despite the busy Friday nights.

“I’m still doing all the stuff that I can for band and the same for football,” he said.

Along with Nazario, two other players from the varsity football team, Adonis Hagedorn, sophomore, and Brendan Philbrick, junior, were a part of the marching band drumline.

Andrew Sturgeon, one of the band directors, admired the hard work all three players had to put into both activities.

“Those guys are committed to both activities,” he said. “Sometimes it’s tough for anybody who’s doing multiple sports and band at the same time–[these students have] to be able to organize their schedule [in such a way so that] they can participate in everything.”

Although the band directors must work around football schedules, Sturgeon puts in the effort to make sure all students get to enjoy their activities.

“The coach and staff along with Mr. [Jerry] Shelato, [band director] and myself all work together to make it possible for the kids to be successful.”

Along with football practices and marching rehearsals, academics are also an important aspect toward thriving as an athlete. Outside of school, Nazario made sure to prioritize his school work despite the early morning and late night practices.

“Usually right after practice, I get home, I get something to eat, and then I just zone into my homework as much as I can within the short amount of time that I have,” he said.

Nazario’s energy usually had to overcome the long nights after practice.

“I try to do as much before I get super tired, and then once I get super tired, I’ll either wake up earlier in the morning to try and finish it, or I’ll finish some stuff during homeroom,” he said.

Although Nazario faced many obstacles balancing football with marching band and academics, he made sure to always keep in contact with the band directors and his coach.

He described the opportunity to be able to do everything he loves as the absolute payoff.

Sommer Ray, junior, is also a part of the marching band but is a member of the varsity dance team. Ray discussed the intense physical energy and tough time commitments both activities demand on Friday nights.

“Football game Fridays are extremely long days,” she said. “I have to bring all of my band and dance team stuff with me to school, and since I don’t have time to leave and change, I am at school for 13-14 hours.”

Most of the action for Ray happened during half time when she had to run straight from the dance team performance right to her spot in the marching band show.

After halftime was wrapped up, she joined the band in the stands for the rest of the game.

Ray found this part of the game relaxing because she got to be in a casual social environment while also playing music to hype fans and the players at the game.

Ray said she appreciated the huge energetic environment on Friday nights and was thankful for the people with whom she has been able to grow close.

“I love the concept of being a part of something bigger, which is an opportunity given to me through both band and dance,” she said. “Both have given me friends that I’ve grown up with, and it’s been rewarding to have such close relationships with people who share similar interests with me. Both groups are like an extension of my family.”

Despite the busy nights and tight time commitments, being in dance and band has always been worth it for Ray.

“Although it’s a demanding schedule, I enjoy both activities and wouldn’t change it for the world,” she said.

With the end of my fall Friday nights during football season at high school, I realize that they will always be one of the best experiences I can ever take away from high school.

Jamming out with dance team in the first half of the game and then rocking out in the stands with band in the second half is an experience I have been absolutely blessed with because I simply got the best of both worlds.

Fridays during football season were long and tiresome days but it was a rewarding opportunity to do what I did alongside incredible people from different groups of the school.

The only way I really did stay sane, though, was that I had such supportive friends from both ends who understood what I did and made sure I had fun no matter what I was doing.

I usually had a friend from band who would take and keep my instrument for the whole first half of the game while I was with the dance team and during my dance performance, so I could quickly take it before the band show.

Then, after I danced during halftime, a member from dance team took my poms for me to the sidelines, so I could run straight to the band. I’ve been forever grateful for these people and their willingness to support me, and that is why I never felt truly alone in doing what I did.

It’s important to point out that there have also been many dance/band veterans who have done this whole half time charade, including my own sister who graduated in 2015, and the experience, although extremely exhausting, is also rewarding in the end.

She advised me while I was a part of two MHS organizations at the same time that it was important to represent both groups well and in a humble and mature fashion.

So while I ran back and forth, I always made sure that I did not disturb others around me and to fulfill my responsibilities for both groups in such ways as having the appropriate uniform for dance team and leading rehearsals as section leader for marching band.

In truth, the most difficult part for me was identifying which group I really belonged to and how I actually fit into the high school scene when I was a part of many different activities. It probably would have been easier for me to stick with one group and roll with it for the rest of high school, but over the years, I have discovered that being able to connect deeply with a wide array of people and friends gave me a richer perspective of my own life and how I want to affect others. I have been able to grow as a person and a leader in both dance and band, and I think that shows how different experiences can help students grow into the best versions of themselves.

Three years later I did find that silver lining while dropping my poms for my saxophone for the very last time during the senior night game, and I realized that all this time my experience was truly a blessing in disguise.