Avon Grove Marching Band relishes the wins

Photo by Chris Barber Rebecca Staznik

LONDON GROVE -- The phrase “the thrill of victory” usually is reserved for athletic teams, but at Avon Grove High School it has come to refer to its highly successful 2012 Marching Band.

Throughout the fall, with competitions, parades and football games with group has been showing off its skills, earning prizes and getting a lot of recognition. Its most recent showing was a second place award at the West Chester Christmas Parade, where it beat out 18 other bands.

The key to the band’s recent success has a lot to do with their director, Rebecca Staznik, 27, who is now at her second year at Avon Grove.

The former director of bands at Warwick High School in Lancaster County is a graduate of West Chester University who holds a master’s degree from Sam Houston State University in Texas. She oversees the concert band and the wind ensemble, both groups of which join to become the marching band.

She said when she came to Avon Grove, she realized the band was not gaining very many honors, but she had some plans to change that.

Staznik said she established a curriculum for every marching band practice and set goals for the members. Her schedule is rugged. In addition to training her musicians during with school day as a for-credit course, she has them practicing 10 hours a week, including four hours on Saturdays. When autumn comes around she has competitions at various schools or parades, and on Friday nights there are football games -- home and away.

Sometimes, she said, the Saturday events last all day, as when they go for a competition as far away as New Jersey and don’t get home until 11 p.m. or midnight.

“That’s nothing,” she said. “Springford High School (which wins everything) practices 20 hours a week in the fall. Different schools have different schedules,” she said.

She said the students don’t seem to mind he hours, in fact, they are exhilarated when they bring home trophies.

Staznik said more than the winning was the fact that playing good and educational programs was important to her and her students. That was never more evident than the halftime program the band performed at football games this year carrying out a musical expression of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”

That theme was chosen by her adult leadership team, choreographed by Michelle Adcock and drill written for the field by Nate Holland.

She said inasmuch as she places a high value on her band members having an educational experience, she was please to have some of them tell her they were prompted to read “The Raven” over again several times.

“‘The Raven’ was brought to life for them,” she said.

Staznik said the parents of her musicians have played a big part, too. Specifically, the parents hand made the flags there were used for the “Raven” drill on the field.

As the autumn schedule with its games, parades and competitions wind down, there is no rest for the band.

The band will play the music for “Guys and Dolls,” this year’s upcoming musical, and indoor competitions with percussion and color guards are approaching. Additionally, her jazz band revs up for winter performances.

After winter fades, there is the spring adjudication competition in Anapolis, Md. , with performances by the district band. She said she was proud to announce that six of her members made it last weekend.

Staznik said she is proud of the discipline and hard work she demands of her band members, and she sets out a goal for every practice. She added that the students know what her curriculum is, and it is one of the things that she believes leads to their success.

While she aims to choose music that is educational and maintain a high level of discipline, she said her one big challenge now is getting new instruments. “Many of the instruments are older, past their prime and in disrepair. We can’t sustain what we have accomplished without replacements,” she said.

To that end, her music boosters are involved in fund-raising and hope to contribute enough to purchase several.

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