The Great Marching Competition! Plus Season Reflection


Mawuenam Dossa

The bus was cramped on the way to Waukesha South, the location of the Middleton High School marching band’s first competition this fall.

Mawuenam Dossa

Hello, my name is Mawuenam Dossa. I am a senior, low brass section leader who plays trombone, and I am hyped! I am currently in an overcrowded bus, something you would see on the subways of metropolitan Tokyo. I am having a “very humbling experience,” having to sit next to a trumpet — according to someone from the section. 

That was written roughly five minutes into a one and a half-hour trip to the Waukesha South Marchfest Invitational, Middleton High School’s first marching band competition of the season, on Sep. 24. I spent time listening to my favorite songs. I gambled. I lost feeling in my leg roughly five times, and I witnessed a banana being passed around for who knows what reason. I was really enjoying this.

The day started at 1:15 p.m. at the high school when the very dedicated band members, including color guard and percussion, began loading the equipment. They filled several U-Hauls with front ensemble instruments, which include the marimba, xylophone, electric piano, cymbals and gong, sound equipment and other large instruments, like the snare, tenor and bass drums, contrabass tubas, trombones, euphoniums, mellophone and bass clarinets. 

We then had a 2:15 p.m. call time, and the rest of us showed up. Essentially, this is the time you must be in the band room or helping to finish loading the trucks. At this time, I was making sure that we shined our brass instruments. However, senior Jean-Luc Jaeschke was the one doing the work for nearly 40 minutes. I was attempting to make sure all brass instruments were getting cleaned and put in the trucks, while also ensuring that my members were getting uniforms in time for inspection. At 2:45 p.m., inspections started. The section leaders and I went around our respective sections to make sure that our uniforms, shoes and hats were in order. After about 15 minutes we were off!

There was one problem: we had no space in the buses. 

We were fitting nearly 170 people into two school buses along with hat cases, instruments, bags, and uniforms. This was a struggle, but eventually, we squeezed into the buses, accepted the situation and we were in and let the trip take us. 

The bus ride eventually led to an ungodly amount of sound playing from the back of the bus while the rest of us were relaxed. I would like to think that people were getting into the mindset of the competition, but that has yet to be proven. Even still, we made our way to Waukesha South High School located in Waukesha if that was not made clear. 

It was roughly 4:30 p.m. as we deboarded, so we had time to kill before our 7 p.m. call time. Call time is the time we need to be ready to warm up. I helped the drum majors, Will Bush (12), Alaina Riley (12) and Charlotte Kosek (11), give out orders for what to wear and not wear at the competition. 

What to wear? Uniform top, sweatshirt (it was cold).

What not to wear? Anything else!

Me, the coolest section leader in all of marching band history, alongside Ian Loughrin, the hard-working, attentive trombone senior, Izzy Woods, a newer trombone prodigy freshman, Conner Roth, a dual sport freshman trombonist, and Gavin Wiese, the future greatest freshman trombonist, moved to enter the stadium. We walked in with a performance from AAA band Milton just finishing, so we were there in time for Wauwatosa West’s show to start. 

The Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) divides all marching bands into 5 different groups, A, AA, AAA, AAAA and Festival. The Festival division is for bands that don’t want to be scored but want feedback and usually join the next year. The number of As in the division describes the size of the school, not the band. We are a AAAA school because we are one of the largest schools in Wisconsin. However, there is an AA school that has a similarly-sized band but a lot less people in their school. All bands compete against each other but rankings are done inside divisions.

Watching the other bands was a great way to get a feel for the quality of the bands that would be at the competition. A personal favorite was Sauk Prairie’s “V is for Villain” show. Despite their show name being slightly corny, they had cool uniforms with hoods, and the music sounded great. The show was a story about conflict between a color guard and band member, corrupting the band member, leading to the band member “killing” the color guard member and becoming a villain.   

After watching another band, we had to leave to prepare for our own performance around 6:30 p.m. I grabbed my trombone and began to rally people to get their hats, uniforms, and instruments. Around this time I started asking people what they were thinking, trying to boost everyone’s confidence before the show. It’s the section leader’s job to do that.

Trumpet senior Madd Dart, who has been in the band for three years, was confident — ish. They were concerned about “forgetting to do the body moves and completely falling on my face,” they said. “I might die but we’re going to play good, hopefully.” 

Next up was bass clarinet senior Jay Niece. She was tired as well but still had a positive outlook on the competition. Eve Kaegebein, a senior trombone, said, “I’m excited. I hope we win.” What would the band do well in? “Everything!” according to Kaegebein. 

“I’m excited, but a little bit nervous,” said Alex Sonetti, a sophomore trombone player.

Sonetti was a new marcher this season, and this was his first competition. He has strong pride in his section. 

“Band’s cool,” he said. “But [it] doesn’t compare to the trombones.”

Sonetti may have thought his section was the best, but the band needed to be a whole team at the competition. As 7 p.m. approached, we began to start our warm ups. The two other leaders, section leader Jaden Zuk (12) and librarian Jackie Lanear (11), were lecturing people about how terrible it is when somebody moves at the wrong time and hammering down the importance of consistency. The ordeal, while slightly mundane, was needed so that new people would remember.

I am a seasoned veteran and master at my craft. I glided through the show, calling our moves and making sure people were counting and moving when needed, a task a little more difficult that it seems.”

As the time to perform loomed over us, we began to warm up, physically and metaphorically. We got in a warm up block, a way for us to get used to lines without being on a field. After running through some of the music we split to our sections again, and I ran through more low brass-specific parts. We then got into a little rave, getting even more hyped — hype unmatched by any other section. 

The people who helped out in the front ensemble left us and we knew it was game time. We got into line and marched about a half mile to the gate of the stadium. We waited 15 minutes for the previous band to leave, and as we heard our band called over the speakers, with the lights over us and the crowd anticipating a good show, we entered the field. 

I can’t really describe the feelings I had during the performance. It really is person-specific. I am a seasoned veteran and master at my craft. I glided through the show, calling our moves and making sure people were counting and moving when needed, a task a little more difficult that it seems. I know, however, that the nerves of failing and sleepiness had an effect on us. Exhaustion racked us to the end, where we hit our loudest point and it was over. All in seven minutes.

Leading a line of marchers, I walked off the field feeling some dread. I knew it wasn’t my best performance, and I heard mistakes in my section’s playing. I knew that I had to keep a face of positivity to keep spirits up despite the uncertainty of our score.

I put away my instrument and went straight to the stadium for the awards ceremony. I got some fire BBQ ribs, found some friends who thought we did alright and sat down to await our score announcement. As bands in the A, AA and AAA divisions got called, the suspense was racking my mind. 

They called fourth, Franklin High School, 

Okay, not us. Good. 

Then I heard. We got third out of the four bands in the AAAA division.

A little heart-crushing, but we earned the best percussion award in our division. 

Personally, I am proud of our performance. This was our first non-State performance with other schools competing against us in two years. It was a wake-up call for our band. There was instant reflection by many members who knew what they did wrong, which helped us address our mistakes and fix them in our next rehearsal. 

Regardless of our loss, we still saw reason to play “We Are The Champions” from the back of the bus on the ride home. Could this have been a desperate cry for the win or a way to keep up morale? Up to interpretation. As we thundered down the highway, more songs filled the bus, or at least enough to keep me attentive enough to write this article.

The competitive season has just started for us and if we want to win state we will need to clutch up and utilize time effectively. Luckily, we are Middleton, we are the best!! For the most part that is.


In Retrospect

Looking back at this first competition, we have improved tremendously. This was a helpful competition. We need to know how it is to lose so that we can improve and avoid it, and the Waukesha South Marchfest Invitational gave us that experience. 

I am glad to see that we reached second at State after starting at third at an invitational. Despite it being my last year in band, I am confident in my members’ future, confident that they will constantly get better. I do believe that we will get first one day, but for me, I’m going off to college and leaving the school, going behind for greater things. 

Thanks for reading. Coolman, out.


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