St. C. Marching Band earns another ‘Superior’ rating
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The St. Clairsville High School Marching Band continues to hit all the right notes.
The group, under the direction of Justin Schwertfeger, recently earned its second consecutive Superior rating at the Ohio Music Education Association State Marching Band Finals at Brunswick High School.
“I think success breeds success,” Schwertfeger said. “The kids kind of realize now what level you have to reach in order to get that Superior rating.”
After having never achieved a Superior in the history of the program –the band received Excellent ratings from 2015-17 at state competition — the St. C. unit is clicking on all cylinders. The band received a I at a district event in Cambridge, which qualified it for the state event.
“As far as the show goes, it was where we needed to take it to get to that next level,” Schwertfeger said.
This year’s competition show was titled “When You’re Smiling,” and it was loosely based on The Joker of DC Comics fame.
“One of our field commanders was dressed as The Joker and had the uniform and the face paint and everything,” Schwertfeger explained. “Usually with our shows, you try to tell a story to the audience through the music, the drills and props.
“In the second movement, we did all kinds of zany things. Our color guard, instead of using flags, was using hula hoops and trampolines.”
Following a third movement that had the band rising back up accompanied by a thrilling ballad, an end battle ensues with The Joker, with the band winning.
“The kids really enjoyed it,” Schwertfeger said of the show. “They liked the comic book theme.”
Judges eyed everything in the show, from the music to the showmanship.
“The music is kind of the nuts and bolts of things,” Schwertfeger explained. “Is it in tune? Is it in balance? Then, they have the general effect judges that look at how the music relates to what you’re doing on the field.
Plans for the show started being formed earlier this year, with things really coming together in the summer during camps in St. Clairsville and at Bethany College. There, all 77 band members took part in rigorous rehearsals, fine-tuning everything for the fall.
Still, though, all the work couldn’t prepare the band for the weather it faced at state.
“We had some really good practices leading up to state,” Schwertfeger said, “but then the weather took an unexpected turn.
“It was so cold. The kids were freezing. Our props were blowing all over the place. But I have to give them credit. They really pushed through and put the elements aside and put on a really good show.”
It was a feat that not many have accomplished.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s not easy to get a Superior. I think only about half (of the bands that perform at state) get one.”