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A Devastating End to the Season

What a tough blog to write this week. I aim to get the blog published early each week, but this is one I just didn't want to write, as I didn't want the reality to be true. As you all know by now, the results did not go the way any of us wanted them to this week, but they are nevertheless the reality. Since performing at ISSMA Regionals two weeks ago, the band has been working hard to fix problem areas and to make improvements to the show. The weather has not been so cooperative over the last few weeks, which has made practices more difficult. However, the band marched on.

On Thursday evening last week, the band needed to make use of its time on the football field and couldn't afford to lose practice hours when the weather turned gross and rainy. The decision was made to hold a Poncho Practice, and the students recorded their music earlier in the day inside. During practice that evening, the students wore ponchos and braved the rain and cold to run sets and make corrections. They worked hard, despite the weather, and made the best of their time. They were able to practice after school on Friday for a few hours, and had a very productive practice.

Poncho Practice!

On Friday evening, many of the senior members of the band worked the concession stand for the home football Sectional game against Heritage. The game did not go well for Woodlan, losing to Heritage, who won easily. The senior band members did a great job and had fun running the concession stand together.

Early Saturday morning, the band met for practice at 6:30am. They worked hard as the sun came up and brought a beautiful sunrise to their morning. Each student's show paddle lined the front sidewalk, a semi-state tradition that is cherished. After their morning practice, the students loaded onto their buses and headed for Franklin Community High School in Franklin, Indiana.

Semi-State paddles lining the sidewalk

6:30am Practice Saturday morning

Upon arrival to Franklin, one of the first items set up by the pit crew was a brand-new Spirit of Woodlan flag that waved proudly above our new trailer. The students loved the flag and were excited to see the blue "W" at the top of the flagpole. It was quite an impressive duo with our new trailer. The band was served a lunch of salad, spaghetti, and breadsticks from Ziano's as well as cupcakes and brownies. Unfortunately, the warmer for the food did not function well and the food was cold, but it was still quite tasty and everyone enjoyed their lunch, including all of the bees that were relentless for the food.

Lunchtime! Spaghetti, salad, and breadsticks from Ziano's

After lunch, the students changed into uniforms and made their way to warm-ups. It was a warm Saturday but incredibly windy. This week, the pit crew brought two sand bags for each of the tree props for the field, after they all were toppled easily by the wind at Regionals two weeks before. As the pit crew waited at warmups, we were passed by band after band that told us to watch our props because everyone was losing their props, and some bands even had some injuries from props falling on students. The pit crew tested out the tree props, and the wind was so strong, that two strong men struggled to hold the tree up against the wind. We knew that the two sand bags would be no match for the wind. Mr. Slattery made the call to only set the field with 6 trees rather than the usual 12, so that we could put four sand bags on each tree with hopes they might still stand. The wind was incredible that day, and all the bands had to made adjustments to their props and the guard had to adjust their routines for no tosses. It was disappointing to not be able to perform their complete show, but it would have to do.

Spirit of Woodlan took the field for their performance at 3:30pm. Their performance was incredible, and the crowd roared in approval for them. It was, by far, the very best performance of their show that the band had done all season, and everyone was very happy with their performance. Everyone did a wonderful job and left the field excited and proud of their performance. It has clearly been a rough season for Spirit of Woodlan, as our scores have consistently been lower than we anticipated all season. This semi-state performance gave many of us hope that we would indeed move on to State Finals.

2023 Pit Crew members!

2023 Pit Crew Men

2023 Pit Crew Ladies

Drum Major Braedon Miller

After returning equipment to the semi and changing out of uniforms, the students enjoyed some snacks and made their way back to the field to watch other bands perform. We all waited anxiously for awards. The most anxiety-filled week of every season is the week of Semi-State, and the most anxiety-filled hour is that time just before awards. As the award ceremony began, the students huddled together down along the fence, anxiously holding hands as they awaited their results. Many of the senior members were sadly disappointed to not be allowed to participate in the Senior Retreat, an annual Semi-State tradition where all seniors of each band gather on the field, in uniform, for awards. Mr. Slattery has long made the call that Woodlan will not participate in the Senior Retreat with all of the other bands.

There were delays in starting the awards, so the anxiety stretched on for an additional twenty minutes until finally, they started the announcements. The bands advancing to ISSMA State Finals were called out in performance order. When the students heard bands that performed after us announced, the realization that we would not be advancing to State Finals hit the students, and hit them hard. The students hugged each other and openly wept with disappointment, disbelief, and sadness. For the senior members, the realization that their marching careers had just abruptly ended was especially painful. Having completely missed out on a marching band season during their freshman year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seniors felt doubly ripped off by losing the opportunity to perform at State Finals this year. Over the next several hours, and indeed days, the seniors would pull themselves together only to recall another cherished tradition they would miss, and then return to tears over their loss. For many of the younger students, they likewise felt incredible pain, some from missing out on their first chance to perform in State Finals, and others over the realization that they would no longer march with some of their close friends who will be graduating this year. I'm fairly certain that every single member of the band was crushed and broken-hearted. The students gathered together back in front of their bus to listen as Mr. Slattery spoke to them. They found out that they had finished 12th in the State, but their scores were not far away from making it into finals. They had an excellent run, but the other 11 bands just had more excellent performances this time. Mr. Slattery noted that this season was greatly plagued by poor attendance at rehearsals and students arriving very late. The morning of Semi-State was the very first practice the entire season that all students were in attendance. The last time the students had such poor attendance all season, and only had perfect attendance at Semi-State, the band did not advance to State. The same held true for this season. It is simply too difficult to perfect sets when there are so many holes in the sets due to poor attendance.

Kiera Caston, Braedon Miller, and Katy Gilbert at Awards

Students gathering along the fence during awards, the sun setting on their season.

The students had a very somber ride to Cici's, a pizza place in Indianapolis that the students always insist on visiting after Semi-State out of tradition. Cici's always agrees to stay open late to accommodate us and they work hard to have a great variety of pizzas for us. The students sat at dinner with swollen, puffy red eyes and faces and tried to make it through dinner together, but there was a quiet, somber feel to the air. They had a rough, tear-filled bus drive back to Woodlan to end the night. The police department had been on stand-by for a celebratory drive through the city when they returned home, but they were dismissed and the parade canceled. It will be a rough week or two for these students, who feel that there is just something greatly missing from their hearts this week. Many plan to venture to Indianapolis this weekend to watch State Finals and cheer on our local bands and friends. It will be a bittersweet day for many as this season comes to a close, and many lessons have been learned from this defeat.

We will gather together to celebrate the season, and most importantly these students, at the annual Band Banquet on Sunday, November 12th. Many of these students are looking forward to exciting seasons starting soon for both Winter Guard and Winter Winds. They will brush themselves off, dry their tears, pull their chins up, and pour their hearts and souls into their upcoming seasons, grateful for the opportunity to make more memories with their friends. And with that, the band will march on.

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