Marching Band’s Bouncing Back!


Kimi Matibag, Journalist

For the entire 2020-2021 school year, the marching band program had been severely hindered, being forced into a hiatus that prevented them from going to any competitions and postponed all after-school rehearsals until second semester; however, this year, things are starting to kick back into swing. Sectionals, after-school practices, football game pep band, state competitions, all if it is back. Yep, marching band is back, baby!  


For years, the Pride of the West marching band had been led and directed by Mr. Aaron Vogel. During the 2019-2020 school year, the last normal school year Mountain Ridge had before the pandemic hit, Mr. Vogel led the band to first place victory at the ABODA State Championships, bringing distinction and prestige to not only the school, but also the music and art department. 


Now that extracurricular activities are more or less back on a regular schedule, the band is working hard to get back up on their feet and go back to bringing home awards and recognitions every weekend just like they always had been.  


As of right now, Vogel says that “band is going so well – attitudes are great, and everyone is just so happy to be back. We were able to go on our annual retreat up to Prescott for band camp”. The director also excitedly shared that the group has “full performances schedules over the next few months”. So glad to see the band working so hard!


Last year, the pandemic and all its restrictions had to be worked around, making it especially difficult for the band since their practices and events heavily relied on the outdoors as well as close contact and interaction with other people. Fortunately, the staff and members did what was necessary to abide by precautionary measures.


We are following district guidelines in terms of safety: our families continue to keep students home if they are sick, and are following quarantine requirements if they are identified as a close contact,” stated Vogel. “We encourage our students and staff to continue wearing masks, and are keeping 6 feet of distance between students when possible”.


On the topic of covid, health measures were not the only thing that changed, but the learning environment as well. Last year, all students had to be online, and when the choice was eventually  offered to stay at home or attend in-person school, about half the student population still chose to learn at home. This created a great divide in classrooms everywhere, because some kids were on zoom while others were seated at desks and tables in-person. 


Band was no exception to this, and the additional hassle of playing instruments together as a group definitely did not make it any easier. 


“We kept students playing through daily zoom, using zoom settings for musical performance. and additional[ly], we relied heavily on the canvas platform for students to continue their training in musicianship and through performance assessment videos,” Vogel explained about last year’s set-up and situation. Despite that rift in communication, each student was still able to develop their skills as musicians and bring them to the table this year for regular events.


As hard as it was last year, this year is a new year for new goals and new attitudes! Vogel and the band have many hopes for this year, and many goals for various subsections of the group as well. The director shares that he hopes “for [the] health and safety of our students and families, and for the continued success of the program”.


As for musical specificities, Mr. Vogel revealed several performances he’s planning for the rest of the season, as well as further into the year.


“We have a few high profile performances coming up,” he says. “[W]ith side-by-side performances with NAU Wind Ensemble, the Highland High School Symphonic Strings and our Saxophone Quartet’s performance at the 75th annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago”.


Vogel also shared that he and the band are very excited to have a “full and competitive marching season”, as well as Friday Night Lights performances like the halftime show, morning pep rallies, and general pep band in the bleachers throughout the football game. The group also looks forward to their home show on Saturday, October 16 Rock the Ridge!


Overall, the band is thriving, not just because rehearsal and performance schedules are back to normal, but also because, “it was the first time in almost two years that the students and staff were able to come together,” Vogel said. The district purchased new uniforms for the group as well and they will be coming in soon.

“The sky is the limit for this year’s band!”