During the first week of summer vacation, when most teenagers are savoring the opportunity to sleep in, 150 Eaglecrest High School students are up early, back at school, hard at work.
They’re all members of the Eaglecrest High School Marching Band, the Raptor Regiment, which held the first of its two, week-long summer band camps May 30 to June 3. Band members arrived at school before 9 a.m. each morning. Color guard members reported an hour earlier.
“It definitely gives us an upper hand when it comes to pep tunes, getting our routines ready, stuff like that,” said senior Erinn Schneider, the color guard captain.
At 9 a.m., color guard and band members meet with band director Jason Mabrey, who is one of Eaglecrest’s Teachers of the Year for 2017. During his tenure at EHS, Mabrey has developed a strong instrumental music program and grown the EHS Marching Band into one of the largest marching bands in the Cherry Creek School District.
Mabrey and his students begin by going over the day’s schedule and listening to a recording of the music they’ll be playing for their field show. It features music by composer Danny Elfman, including songs from the Spider-Man, Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice films.
“I’m always looking for a show that the students will like and also that the crowd will like and I think this kind of fits both those bills,” Mabrey explained.
But before the show can take shape, students – especially new freshmen – have to learn the basics of marching and maneuvering. One of the freshmen is Chris Htun, who plays the flute. So far, he has a positive impression of band camp despite the early mornings and long, hot days marching across an asphalt parking lot.
“Band camp is really fun, you learn many new, different things and you have people to support you,” Htun said.
The Raptor Regiment support system includes section leaders like Schneider and the band’s drum majors, senior Andres Rodriguez and junior Ethan Ekleberry.
“The best thing about band camp is seeing the freshmen,” Ekleberry said.” They come in not knowing anything, then you see them start growing.”
Ekleberry and Rodriquez lead the jogging, calisthenics and stretching that kickoff each rehearsal. They also set a positive example and hold high expectations for the whole band.
“Working hard on our music, our marching and our entire show,” explained Rodriguez, who added that the payoff comes the first time they perform the show for family, friends and fellow EHS students. That reward, he said, makes the hard work worth it.
Mabrey says marching band is an activity where every member of the team is equally valuable.
“I tell the kids all the time that we don’t have any superstar quarterbacks,” Mabrey said. “Everybody’s on the starting line-up, nobody’s on JV.”
He believes his students learn the value of teamwork and contributing to the “greater good.”
“I think there are a lot of kids who miss that these days. They’re more into ‘What’s it going to do for me?’ and I feel like this is more of a ‘What is this going to do for all of us?’ I think that’s a good lesson to learn.”
The Eaglecrest High School Marching Band will kick off its 2017 season at the school’s Raptor Rally on August 25, followed by the first home football game of the season, EHS vs. Smoky Hill, on Sept. 1.