Band explores contrast ‘Of Fire and Ice’

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Music and visuals create the contrasting themes of “Of Fire and Ice” in the Homestead Spartan Alliance marching band’s 2017 show.

Five drum majors direct a band of 274 musicians and guard members as glaciers and fire mountains move about the field. Nine band members step out of formation to ring handbells. An ice skater moves and spins to the melody of the bells and of a flute solo.

The show, which has earned awards early in the season, is headed for the ISSMA Semistate.

Brad Wadkins directs the Spartan Alliance.

The Oct. 14 ISSMA Regional at Chesterton was delayed by storms. “We had reports of delays and we delayed our leave time by 4 hours and our performance time put us at 11:55 p.m. Eastern daylight time,” Wadkins said. “So it was a very late evening and we performed indoors so it was just a music standstill and a majority of the color guard performed also.

“The kids performed very well and did what they needed to do. It’s not something you practice very much because we’re planning on playing outside on a football field.

“Our band received a Gold rating and received distinctions in music and in general effect, which is the only two distinctions that were available that night because there wasn’t the visual caption.”

The band achieved a first for Homestead on Sept. 23, winning a Bands of America regional contest. “The students have been working extremely hard through practices and have had great focus,” Wadkins said in an email at that time. “Performing at the BOA Regional in Toledo was an honor for the students. The venue, The Glass Bowl, at the University of Toledo is impressive. The caliber of judges at BOA events is terrific. Sharing the stage with great bands from five states was special for our students as well. I am proud of the Homestead band students for earning the first BOA regional championship in school history.”

Homestead placed first in Class 4A and first overall. Judges awarded Homestead first place for Outstanding Music Performance and Outstanding General Effect.

The Indiana State School Music Association Class A Semistate will be Saturday, Oct. 28, at Ben Davis High School, 1200 N. Girl School Road on the west side of Indianapolis. Homestead will march at 3:49 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and preschoolers. The Carroll High School Charger Pride will march at 4:15 p.m. The first of 20 Class A bands will perform at 1 p.m. Ball State University will march in exhibition at 6:12 p.m., with awards to follow at 6:25 p.m. Ten bands will advance to the ISSMA Open Class State Finals on Nov. 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Watch infortwayne.com for updates and ticket information.

As always, the 2017 show design team selected the music first and the visual elements followed. “The music is the music of Robert W. Smith from ‘The Divine Comedy,’ and there’s a lot of contrast in the music,” Wadkins said. “So when we sat down as a staff and listened to it, our ideas started running wild and we started listening to it and we tossed anything out at the design meeting and the contrast of fire and ice is what led us to the concept and we ended up with the show title ‘Of Fire and Ice.’ “

“We contrast that visually as well,” he continued. “We also talk about how fire can be very warm and soothing and comforting and it can be very destructive. And we say the same thing about ice, how it can be very damaging and it can be very destructive but it also creates comfort and is soothing at times as well.”

The bells and the skater just seemed to fit. “Our design staff is very open with each other and we just throw out any kind of idea and we see how many buy into it and we see where it goes from there,” Wadkins said. “There are a lot of metallic sounds that are mainly done from the traditional glockenspiel and different, traditional instruments. We thought it would be a nice touch to put handbells on the field. And we love it, it’s a great sound. It’s a visual enhancement also.

“We’re doing ice as one of our concepts and nobody’s every seen an ice skater on a marching band field, and that was something that was thrown out in the design meetings. We looked up synthetic ice — it’s called Skate Anytime — and we found the right person, It’s been a wonderful enhancement to the show.”

Delaney Reilley is the ice skater. The handbell ringers are Jen Arata, Grace Burson, Sierrah Clifford, Kate Lane, Kayli Maucione, Chloe Morton, Natalie Nichols, Evie Quehl and Nola Win.

Wadkins is in his first season as director, after serving as assistant through more than two decades of the band’s success. Longtime director Steve Barber still contributes to the Spartan Alliance. “Mr. Barber comes in about once a week and consults with us musically and has lots of ideas and input. He doesn’t want to get on the microphone at all anymore, but he’s given us input in the press box and in rehearsals. I’m in contact with him all the time,” Wadkins said.

Bryen Warfield replaces Wadkins as assistant. “Mr. Warfield is a great addition to the team and the kids love him and he has great rapport with the kids,” Wadkins said.

“A lot of our staff have been with the program for 10, 15, 20, 25 years, so it’s great to have all of them still in place and continuing in their roles that they’ve been in. Everything’s shaping up nicely and everybody’s doing their jobs the way we need.”

Homestead also is scheduled to compete Oct. 20 at BOA Super Regional Prelims at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Qualifiers compete again Oct. 21.

The Spartan Alliance also will march Nov. 9 in the BOA National Prelims in Indianapolis, with qualifiers advancing to Semifinals and Finals on Nov. 11.

Get details or tickets at musicforall.org.