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FUHS Marching Warriors know practice makes perfect

Practice, practice, practice: that’s the life of a member of Fallbrook Union High School marching band. It’s not easy to get 60 people to move the exact same way, but band director Amy Thomas and the members of the FUHS Marching Warriors try their best.

Band Booster Sandra McGoldrick said that on the Saturday that I attended rehearsal, they were scheduled to practice from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. “Band is a huge commitment and these students practice very long and hard,” she said.

Besides practicing each week for several days, the band appears at pep rallies, football games and special events, such as the Fallbrook Veteran’s Day and Christmas parades.

I discovered during that Saturday morning rehearsal that band practice is a great deal more than just walking in one formation on the football field while playing an instrument. The band members learn many different vigorous routines. “We are asking them to jog around the field and also blow air into an instrument,” Thomas said. “That takes gearing up mentally and physically.”

The members practice hard each week, but on Saturday they were gearing up for the Western Band Association State Championship at Hayward State University the weekend of Nov. 21.

During practice I heard Thomas shout with her loudspeaker as she sat high on scaffolding in order to survey the entire field, “You are incredibly skilled performers but you just don’t show it all the time.”

Later on I heard her say, “You missed the visual and have to celebrate.” Immediately the band members dropped to the ground and began doing pushups.

Thomas explained to me that since the band origins are military, when members make mistakes they will do five or so pushups to remind themselves of the mistake.

“Sometimes lack of concentration is due to lack of oxygen to the brain, so it is good to exercise,” she said. “They also need strong arm muscles to carry the instruments.”

The routine that they were practicing on Saturday is approximately eight minutes long. However, in that eight-minute routine there are 100 different shapes that the band members have to form, hence the long hours of practice during the week and on weekends.

This is Thomas’ second year as band instructor. “We are hoping to grow,” she commented. She said that the band will accept any student if they show interest as well as the dedication required to succeed. “We have the entire spectrum, from a virtuoso to having to teach them from day one.”

“It is a challenge getting everyone to a high level regardless of where they have started,” she said.

Thomas gives the student leaders much credit for the success of the band. “I have the best student leaders in the band that I have ever had.” The main leaders are drum majors Ashley Campbell and Elias Sanchez. These students were chosen based on their musicianship, leadership skills and the ability to develop rapport with the other band members. Thomas also mentioned, “Integrity is a very large part of choosing because they have a lot of responsibilities.”

She explained that in competitions she leads the band to the field, but from then on it is entirely a student performance.

The band did well in state competition last year and placed number thirteen. “They lost two and a half weeks due to the fire evacuation,” said Thomas, “so to have made that much progress is a huge accomplishment.”

She also related that the band has emerged from various competitions without awards but have still felt the satisfaction of a quality performance. “I think that that is the more important lesson. If you work and dedicate yourselves as a team and you all accomplish something great together, that is an accomplishment in itself.”

Since the fifth grade 25-year-old Thomas has participated in school bands. She graduated from Temecula Valley High School and then obtained a Bachelor’s degree and teaching credential at Azusa Pacific College.

I commented that it seems like she has a lot of responsibility for someone so young. Thomas thinks that if she hadn’t had marching band experience she probably wouldn’t have learned to handle responsibility and developed the drive she has. She also said that she is excited to be able to lead her students toward that same drive and responsibility.

Thomas mentioned that the band still needs financial support: “As much support as we can get in these hard times would be wonderful. We don’t want to let this go; it is an important part of the community and these kids are way too important.”

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