KHS marching band moves to Yankee division with 80 members

Kennett elementary music teacher Eric Rutledge leads the KHS marching band percussion ensemble through their paces at Kennett Middle School last week.

At the Kennett High School’s band camp last week, the message was simple: drill, baby, drill.

Held at Kennett Middle School, the 80 students rehearsed the steps, learned the music and brought it all together on a daily basis, all under the watchful eye of high school band director Anton Romano.

Romano said that this year’s theme for the show – “Winter Storm” – may seem a little strange at the tail end of August, but once the weather changes in a few months it won’t be so out of place.

He added that while many people might be unfamiliar with the five compositions that make up the piece, the show is still an entertaining one.

Romano said he was inspired by the Nor’easter that effectively shut down that weekend last October and brought any and all activities in our region to a standstill.

“I thought, ‘you know, we could do a really cool show like that,’” Romano said. “So we started playing with that idea, what can we do with it? Where can it go?”

In keeping with the theme of wintery weather, the color guard will spin snow shovels at one point in their routine, while the band members recreate the shape of a Nor’easter that rotates into a giant snowflake.

“It really grew out of that odd weekend,” Romano said with a chuckle.

With 80 members signed up for this season, the band officially moved into “Yankee” division, Romano said – an impressive feat for a program that didn’t even have a football team less than a decade ago.

“Last year we were around 63, 64, and we’re expecting even more next year,” Romano said. “Success breeds success – it’s a young program … and for me, it was a 10-year plan to build the program and get it going to where we wanted. And we’re starting to get there, it’s great.”

While the kids will perform later this week at a special friends and family event, the show makes its official debut on Aug. 31 at an away game with Avon Grove.

And even with the official debut, it’s still a casual situation – for the bands, at least – as the two groups perform in tee shirts and shorts as opposed to full dress band uniforms.

“We have a nice band director’s agreement,” he said. “It’s a little bit nicer for them, because the uniforms get hot. It’s also a little more forgiving for these guys, just in the way of being a little more relaxed. Expecting a full, perfect show opening weekend is tough.

The kids rehearse for two full weeks, in three blocks on a daily basis, with routine rehearsal in the morning and music practice in the early afternoon. They then bring it all together in the afternoon, combining the routine and the music in sections that break the seven-minute performance into digestible bits.

“This is actually the end of the routine,” Romano said last Wednesday as he watched the kids move through their steps while humming their parts instead of playing actual instruments. “I think we’re absolutely going to be ready.”

Romano said that, despite being scheduled for 10 days, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day, it isn’t all work, work, work.

“There are some very long, intense days, and part of that is because we’re still new to this,” Romano said. “A big part of it is building the culture and building the community so they know what is expected and this is what we do.”

Despite the work, the kids seem to be enjoying themselves, taking Wednesday to wear often outrageous, mixed-up outfits as they marched in place and pounded marimbas.

“This is mismatch day,” one student said in passing. “Please let people know that Kennett High kids know how to actually dress.”