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Sheridan Marching Blackhawks, Now AA, to Take Band Day by Storm

(Photo courtesy of the Sheridan Marching Band)
The Sheridan Marching Blackhawks performed “Another Day of Sun” (from “La La Land” motion picture) by Justin Hurwitz, during the 2021 Indiana State Fair Band Day and placed 19th and third place in Class A.

A growing Sheridan Marching Blackhawks band is prepared to take Indiana State Fair Band Day by storm.

The band’s State Fair Band Day show theme is “Into the Storm,” by Robert W. Smith. The musical piece presents the intensity, fury and relentless pounding of the wildest of storms and was inspired by the “Storm of the Century,” the great blizzard of 1993.

Tonight, the community can preview the State Fair Band Day performance at 7:30 p.m. at Sheridan High School’s Bud Wright Stadium in Sheridan.

Wednesday was the band’s last full practice, and the band is focused on the goal ahead: “Performing our absolute best on Friday. We’ve made changes to the music and drill last week and earlier this week. Today (Wednesday) we are cleaning as much as possible, smoothing out trouble spots, encouraging the students every step of the way, and making the most out of this gorgeous but incredibly hot day,” Marching Band Director Libby Doublestein said Wednesday morning.

(Photo courtesy of the Sheridan Marching Band)
Sheridan Marching Blackhawks practice in their black and white costumes for their “Into the Storm” theme for Friday’s Indiana State Fair Band competition.

The Blackhawks band — which moves from Class A up to the larger Class AA (Class AAA being the largest bands) — will compete at 9:27 a.m. Friday at Indiana State Fair Band Day presented by Music Travel Consultants and Paige’s Music at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. The Sweet 16 finalists will compete again Friday night for the championship.

Class AA is for 26-50 playing members (winds and percussion), and the band has 26 playing members this year. In years past, Sheridan Blackhawks have competed in Class A for smaller bands.

Does that mean the Blackhawks have tougher competition this year at the State Fair?

(Photo courtesy of the Sheridan Marching Band)
Sheridan Marching Blackhawks practice in their black and white costumes for their “Into the Storm” theme for Friday’s Indiana State Fair Band competition.

“In part, yes. Bumping up a class means that we are competing with much larger bands for Class Awards (first, second, third place in each class) and Class Caption Awards – Guard (Auxiliary) and Percussion,” Doublestein said. “But for the overall competition, all the bands compete together regardless of class. The top 16 bands overall compete again in the Finals Friday evening. We could have capped it at 25 winds/percussion to stay in Class A, but we didn’t want to turn students away from being a part of this summer marching band experience.”

Doublestein said their growing marching band is a good thing.

“Our total numbers have almost doubled from last year, and we are thrilled with that,” she said. “We have 26 winds and percussion and 10 guard members, plus a drum major. Having a larger group means some things are harder and some things are easier. There are more people to teach (14 rookies this year), but there’s also more we can do musically and visually for greater impact. We strive for excellence no matter the size of the band, and truly put our hearts into everything we do. We are so thankful to have more students to share this program with.”

This year, the band has been to three contests so far, placing 11th at Centerville, second at Montgomery County, 12th at Muncie Central, and 13th at Anderson.

Doublestein believes in this year’s Blackhawks State Fair competition theme. “We had this show theme picked out a few years ago, but postponed due to COVID. We felt the group this year was up to the challenges of performing this music, and they have risen to that challenge,” she said.

Set pieces depict a farm, including a barn, windmill and silo. “Toward the end of the show, the band forms concentric circles to move dramatically across the field like a tornado, causing the set pieces to succumb to the storm,” she said.

The music is about 5-1/2 minutes long, “and we’ve practiced so that we can get on the field in about a minute and off in about a minute as well,” she said. There is a 9-minute limit once the band starts marching on the field.

Winds and percussion students will wear a black sleeveless shirt, white marching band pants, and black marching shoes. “This uniform not only allows them to be in something cooler than a typical formal marching band uniform but also makes their movements easier to see because of the stark contrast of the black and white,” Doublestein said.

The guard members will wear gray uniforms to represent clouds, and they have blue silks for blue skies, yellow lightning bolt silks, and black and white swing flags, made by band parents and community members, which represent swirling wind. There will also be a guard member in red and white dress and boots, acting as the farmer experiencing the storm.

Practices for Band Day began six weeks ago. Two weeks after the last day of the 2021-22 school year, the Marching Blackhawks began summer practice on June 20. There were daily practices from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and five days of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Band Camp, plus 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. the rest of the summer with sectional time after practice.

For the marching band this summer, besides marching band director Libby Doublestein, there are assistant director and show designer Johnny McGinnis, and guard instructor Kaitlyn Tipton. Other staff includes Sean Knochel (Logistics), Patrick Cronin, Eli Donaldson, Ariel Marley, and Melissa Stultz.

There are also a lot of parent volunteers.

“We have a fabulous team of parents who have worked tirelessly on making the set pieces and figuring out the logistics for getting them on and off the field,” said the band director, who is also director of high school choirs and is assistant director of bands.

In 2021, the Blackhawks performed the joyful and uplifting “Another Day of Sun” (from “La La Land” motion picture) by Justin Hurwitz, and placed 19th at Indiana State Fair Band Day and third place in Class A. There were  17 musicians and four guards (who wore bright yellow dresses) in the 21-member Sheridan Marching Blackhawks band at the 2021 competition.

The Sheridan Marching Blackhawks’ greatest achievements over the past five years are the 2018 Class A Best Auxiliary, 2016 Class A third place and 2015 Class A second place and Best Visual. While there was no band day in 2020, the band earned 22nd place during band day in 2019, with the theme “From Now On” from “The Greatest Showman.”

Sheridan Marching Blackhawks’ first time to enter the Indiana State Fair competition, in its 75th year (starting in 1947) was 1953, with band director Wayne Van Sickle and drum major Robert Seymour, leading 32 band members, according to IndianaTrackMarchingBands.com. In 1954, the band, with 43 members, performed to the Theme from “Oklahoma,” featuring “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” and tied for sixth place.

Doublestein said this year’s directors are incredibly proud of their students.

“I hope the students put everything out there on the field on Friday and are proud of every step they take. We have a ‘Call to Attention’ that ends with ‘Eyes  – With Pride, Eyes – With Pride, Eyes – With Pride!’ My hope is that each and every student knows that we as directors look at them with such pride in our eyes. The amount of dedication and heart they put into this band makes them truly an honor to work with.”

Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

Want to GO?

What: Sheridan Marching Blackhawks free community preview of Indiana State Fair competition performance.

When: 7:30 p.m. today (Thursday).

Where: Sheridan High School’s Bud Wright Stadium, 24795 Hinesley Road, Sheridan. Rain location is the SHS gymnasium.

Band Day: The 75th Indiana State Fair Band Day performance is at 9:27 a.m. Friday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis.