Ascending to Higher Music Ground


A collaboration of 122 students seems nearly impossible. But for the Crescenta Valley High School marching band, color guard, and drumline, it is all in a day’s work.

The new field show, “Ascension,” performed by the marching band, color guard and drum line, made its debut at the beginning of the school year but the production was a long time coming. Preparation began in April with the formulation of the concept, which was a group effort.

“We have a period of time when the [marching band] students fill out a form where they talk about a story they would like to explore and talk about the music they would like to use,” said Mathew Schick, instrumental music director at CVHS. “Then we have a meeting where we bounce ideas around.”

This year, the student-submitted ideas had a common theme: teen angst and the desire to tell a dramatic story. The idea developed into something based loosely on “Dante’s Inferno” and the idea of rebirth.

“The idea kind of pulls from different sources. Someone had the idea of ‘Dante’s Inferno,’ somebody had the idea of ‘The Firebird Suite’ from our last field show…which ends with rebirth, and we also tried to incorporate ‘Amazing Grace,’” said Schick.

The title, Schick explained, came from a video game that featured a song called “Ascension.”

“We had to be very careful with the whole idea of church and state. We did not want to make it seem like a completely religious show and [‘Ascension’] seemed like a word that could apply to a lot of things, but when geared towards our show, had meaning,” said Schick.

After deciding on the theme for the show, the planning of what shape it would take started.

The field show is made up of three movements. The first features Rachmaninoff’s “Isle of Dead,” the second brings together pieces from Mussorsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and “Night on Bald Mountain,” and the third focuses on Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” and “Amazing Grace.”

The show, which will be performed at home football games and four field show competitions this year, has taken a great deal of practice to present.

“We had band camp for two weeks before school started where we met from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and spent half the day practicing drill marching and half of the day practicing the music,” said Schick.

Drill marching, which covers the wide range of movement on the field including the various shapes and formations the band makes, is performed in conjunction with the color guard and the drumline. But the color guard choreography and drumline sequences are formulated separately from the drill marching and come together at group practices.

Currently, the first movement of the field show has been completed.

“We hope to have two movements completed by our first field show competition [at the beginning of October] and all three done by our big field show in Chino [in November],” said Schick.

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