The Noblesville High School Marching Band, The Marching Millers, is starting the school year on a high note after three consecutive first-place finishes in Indiana's band invitational. The unprecedented victory streak bodes well for the band as they head into their grand finale at the Indiana state fair Saturday.
After a summer of practicing, the 125-member band of brass, woodwinds, percussionists and color guard hit its stride during the Muncie Central Competition, July 22, besting 22 other bands for a first-place finish.
In addition to the triple-win streak, this year marks another first for the Millers, as last Friday, July 27 was the first time the group has ever won first place on its own turf at the Noblesville Black and Gold Invitational, topping 19 other teams.
Their latest victory came last Saturday when they defeated 19 other bands at the Drums at Winchester competition in Winchester. The Force of Winchester, of Winchester Community Schools, got third in the competition. The Force has won the State Fair Band Day five out of the last six years.
Donna Dubois, director of operations for the Millers and parent of a senior performer, says this year's success has made the experience especially poignant.
"It's been very emotional," she said. "A lot of ugly crying. We've had little nibbles of success, but three wins in a row we've never had before. It's very exciting."
Band Director Eric Thornbury says this year's victories are a result of increased commitment and effort from the students.
"Our student leadership is fantastic, we spent a lot of time working with them, and our success stems from that," he said. "The energy has to be positive and everyone has to buy in - the difference this year is that there is more buy in."
Zach Brumfield, 16-year-old senior, snare drummer and section leader of the drumline, says this year's unprecedented success is the result of increased cohesion among band members.
"Our band this year has worked harder and been more focused and passionate than I've ever seen them," said Brumfield. "It's been like night and day. Everybody is on the same page and we're working together, which is a large part of our success this season."
Last year's performance, "Unrequited Love" explored the tragic story of composer Hector Berlioz though a romantic betrayal, and his subsequent daydreams about murdering his amour and his execution that would follow.
Continuing its tradition of tackling dark, complex tales in its routines, this year the Millers' theme is "Sirens" based on the beautiful, deadly sirens of Greek Mythology, set to the music Of Sailors and Whales, by Francis McBeth. The sirens were said to lure seafarers to their death by drawing them in with their enchanted music and voices, causing the ships to crash on their island's rocky coasts.
The band, representing the sailors in this scenario, feel the call of the sea and set sail during the beginning of the performance, until they are drawn in by the sirens, played by the color guard. The dramatic piece ends with the sailors death as they are swallowed up by the ocean in the form of a large blue sheet.
As entertaining as the piece might be for audience members, many of the students performing are having an even better time. Brumfield says this routine is unbeatable as a performer.
"I like the flute solo when the show turns from happy to scary. It's so well designed and executed that it gives me goosebumps every time," he said. "It is the most fun I've ever had while performing."
Cami Smith, 16-year-old junior and percussionist for the Millers, says the ending of the show, the sailors death, is the most exhilarating part for her.
"My favorite part of the performance would have to be the very end when the guard pulls a cloth over the band that is supposed to be the water," Smith said. "At that point in the show, everyone is hyped up and the music is very fun to play. You can start to feel the excitement from having a great show by that time."
This summer the students have each spent more than 200 hours at practices and band camp, all on a volunteer basis as summer marching band isn't required. Some might find the commitment daunting, but for these students it's worth it.
"I don't think it's hard to contribute my time to this activity," said Brumfield. "I'm very passionate about marching band and there's honestly nowhere else I'd rather be. I love every second of it."
The Noblesville Marching Millers haven't won the State Fair competition since 1952, and they haven't been runner-up since 1987.
They hope to use the feedback they received during each invitational competition to perfect their state fair performance tomorrow, although a victory isn't the goal for the Millers.
"Our goal isn't to win," said Thornbury. "We don't really get to control that. Our goal is to perform the best we can - better than we've ever done. If the judges put us in first, cool. But if not, that's okay too because we've had a great season."
The Millers will compete tomorrow at The Indiana State Fair Track at 12:12 p.m.
Fifty bands are competing. The top 16 finalists will perform in the championships tomorrow evening.
Posted: Friday, August 4, 2017
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Why do you post such a nice article about the band that has errors? Don't you have an editor? "and color guardsmen" (they're women) "...ending of the show, the sailor's death," (it's plural, sailors' death) "The dramatic piece ends with the sailor's death" (plural sailors') "At that point in to show..." (in the show) "Fifth bands are competing." (Fifty?) You can correct the online version, but if these errors are in the print version it is unfortunate.