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CORRECTION: Names of three members of the color guard were accidentally left out of this story. We apologize for the error. (Aug. 25, 2019)
Tiger color guard members toss their flags up high and execute perfect catches during rehearsal. (Bonnijean Cooney Adams photo for Tube City Almanac)
If you go...
McKeesport Area High School Tiger Band Preview
Where: Weigle-Schaeffer Tiger Stadium, McKeesport Area High School Campus, 1960 Eden Park Blvd.
When: Today (Aug. 22). Gates open for practice at 6 p.m.; preview show starts at 7.
Tickets: Free admission
McKeesport’s industrial heritage is featured with a theatrical twist and condensed to an eight-minute show when the Tiger Marching Band takes to the field in “A Day in the Mill.”
Ryan Raible, the assistant band director and drill designer, said each year is a challenge to create a show that the audience will understand and relate to.
“It’s a lot of pageantry arts, telling a story. I tell the kids it’s like performing an entire musical in only eight minutes,” Raible said.
When considering music, he and band director Drew DeCarlo connected with Randall D. Standridge, a composer, arranger, and drill designer, whose work is performed internationally.
“We got permission to use his ‘Engines’ show and rename it,” DeCarlo said.
While some of the students are familiar with the subject matter from relatives or friends who once worked – or still do – in steel mills, others are not.
So DeCarlo has plans for a cross-curricular approach in September to have those familiar with life in the mill come in and share their experiences.
“I hope to make that a teachable moment that reaches beyond music,” he said.
Olivia Bakaturski, senior drum major, said although every show has its challenges, this year’s production is very good. She said she especially likes the second part, which has a lot of upbeat music.
Austin Doc McGrew said his biggest challenge is alternating between his roles. He plays mellophone and directs as junior field conductor when the band faces the back.
“It’s a positive story,” Raible said. “It’s not linear, just about a regular day in the mill.”
Percussionists maintain the beat as musicians and color guard run drills.
Janice Willis, a senior on color guard, said she likes the show’s concept, which portrays what it was like throughout the Pittsburgh region when steel mills were in full operation.
“Part of it is set when (Andrew) Carnegie was still alive,” she said.
Carnegie built his Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock and North Braddock as his first steel mill in 1872. Janice said the color guard costumes are tan pants with a button-down shirt with suspenders, like a factory worker would have worn.
“This is a very dedicated group,” said co-director Kelley Larson, in her second year with co-director Connor Fitzgerald. “They’ve done a great job working in the time they’ve had.”
On trumpet, Nya Green said her biggest challenge is fixing her posture while still making a good sound during her solo.
Travis Scoville said the second song is his favorite because of the part the brass section gets to play.
“It’s very fast paced, except for the ballad,” explained Taylor Montalbano. “There are two or three different melodies coming together and visuals that go with it, too.”
Jenna Ruozzi, who plays flute, provided input for her father Lonnie Ruozzi as he and Tyler Gedman were designing and painting steel mill backdrops.
“We bounced off ideas, and my pap used to work in the mill, so my dad knew about that,” Jenna said. “We reused boxes from our show two years ago and gave them a different look like Mr. DeCarlo wanted.”
Student section leaders for McKeesport Area High School Tiger Marching Band, from left, include Nya Green, Travis Scoville, Taylor Montalbano, Aaliyah Fountain, Alexa Krznaric and Jenna Ruozzi.
Section leader Aaliyah Fountain said the quality of “A Day in the Mill” has become apparent as the musicians and color guard have come together nicely for their respective parts.
For Alexa Krznaric, who plays bass clarinet, a series of 16th notes in her solo has been the biggest challenge during the ballad.
In addition to football games, upcoming performances are:
Sept. 7 at the Penn-Trafford Tournament of Bands
Sept. 14 at TOB competition at East McKeesport
Sept. 28 at Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association Competition at Burrell
Oct. 12 as hosts of the TOB Home Show competition in McKeesport.
The band also is scheduled to compete Oct. 19 at the TOB Chapter 8 Championships at a location to be determined.
Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a former McKeesport Daily News editor. She may be reached at email@example.com.
Tiger Band, Color Guard and Staff
Band: Senior Drum Major Olivia Bakaturski, Junior Field Commander Austin Doc McGrew, Ella Leone, *Jenna Ruozzi, Hannah St. Clair, Makayla Elash, Savanna Aukerman, ReShawna Mackson, Nicole Upperman, Ashley Pfeffercorn, *Alexa Krznaric, Joseph Lukac, *Aaliyah Fountain, *Travis Scoville, Tristen Ackerman, *Nya Green, Nick Martino, Nigel Pacura, Brianna Schmidt, Colby Chambers, Isaiah Mobitt Jr., Josh Wos, Dylan Szepesi, Christian Donnelly, Richard Graham, Rafael Daniele, *Taylor Montalbano, Samantha Kaefer, Alexis Langley, Kody Aldana, Mckayla Burke, Luciano Lanz, *Tommy Cicci, Ireland Foster, Johnathan Gramby, Melissa Malackany, Zachary Manfredo, Paul Ridge, Adam Savage, Sydeny Townsend, Sir-Zyon Edward Cox, Leila Wertz
*Designates section captain.
Color Guard: Johnae Billings, Tayler Cleveland, Tiara DeFrances, Jaiden Flint, Autumn Klingensmith, Daejea Moorefield Collins, Nya O’Neal, Ray’Myah Pryor, Taryn Vasquez, Janice Willis
Director: Drew DeCarlo
Assistant Director and Drill Designer: Ryan Raible
Color Guard co-directors: Kelley Larson, Connor Fitzgerald
Backdrop designers and painters: Lonnie Ruozzi, Tyler Gedman
Originally published August 22, 2019.