Members of Serra Catholic High School's colorguard practice their moves during band camp. (David Adams photo special to Tube City Almanac)
(* -- Correction made, Aug. 25. See editor's note.)
With most of his students in choir and musicals, in addition to playing instruments, Serra Catholic High School marching band director Jesse Bush said he was looking for something different and unique to match their skillset when selecting a theme for the season.
“I wanted to do a Latin-themed show,” he said. “I watched the Disney movie ‘Coco’ last year and thought the Day of the Dead holiday was something that could work.”
Following their appearance in Kennywood’s Fall Fantasy Parade on Aug. 18, the band kicks off its season tonight when the Eagles open their football season at Yough in a non-conference game starting at 6 p.m.
Serra musicians overcome soggy conditions to get in some practice time. (David Adams photo special to Tube City Almanac)
Not limited by a total of 26 students on the marching band roster, the director and students are stepping up to the challenge of producing a show not only to support the football team, but to perform at Tournament of Bands competitions.
That includes one hosted by nearby McKeesport Area Tiger Band on Oct. 13 and competitions at Penn-Trafford and East Allegheny.
Drum major Nicky Stumme, a senior, said he loves the concept for “La Dio de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).”
“We can give the power needed” to project the music, he said, explaining that since the musicians are grouped closer together, the sound blends well and they can hear each other better than a larger band that can be spread out more.
Although small in numbers, Serra Catholic band members project a big sound. (David Adams photo special to Tube City Almanac)
Entering his sixth year with Serra’s marching band, Nicky said he was approached back in sixth grade about playing, then joined the group as a seventh-grader. Becoming drum major was one of his goals.
Nicky can conduct the entire show on the field, but said when they are parading he reverts to playing percussion while assistant drum major Paige Thatcher takes over.
Paige, also a senior, plays alto saxophone for marching band and brings her vocal talents to the show as well.
“Band officers had auditions and there is a vocal part in the second song,” she said.
The program consists of four songs. The first is “Los Cuervos (The Crows),” followed by the lullabye version of “Remember Me” from “Coco.” Paige and Alani DiLonardo are performing vocal solos during that number. Alani also is the woodwind section leader.
The third selection also is “Remember Me” from “Coco,” but it is the version by Ernesto de la Cruz. Bush said he selected “Aztec Fire” to wrap up the show.
New band uniforms have been ordered with help of funds raised online. (Submitted photo)
Band members hope to sport a new look before the end of the season. Bush said new uniforms have been ordered, and parts have been delivered already. Custom jackets still have to arrive, with a target date of late September or early October. The uniforms were made possible through a GoFundMe campaign, he said.
In addition to marching band duties, Bush is in charge of concert band, jazz band, chorus and the annual spring musical, so he is well aware of his students’ capabilities.
“Combining all of our talents I think will really create a great show,” he said.
* Other members of the Eagles marching band are Lauren Makovics as colorguard captain, with Anna Osinski as co-captain; Rachel Mejalli, secretary and brass section leader; Hannah Kulbacki, uniform manager; Jake Majors, percussion section leader.
Also: Katie Crossen, Serafina Szarmach, Mikayla McShane, Jordan Premozic, Anna Edmundson, Zac Wilcox, Noah Yeasted, Joe Crossen, Harrison Potts, Abigail Bernick, Paige Bosic, Jimmy Fedor, Natalie Makovics, Nicaela Greenlee, Shelby Schneider, Natalie Mittereder, Logan Kearns and Ryan Gedman.
* Editor's Note: Due to an editing error, two band members' names were inadvertently omitted from this story. I apologize for the error. -- Jason Togyer, editor and executive director
Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a freelance writer. A former editor of The Daily News, she worked as a journalist in McKeesport for more than 20 years.
Originally published August 24, 2018.