For the first time in Pueblo West High School history, the marching band placed in the overall competition at the Colorado State Fair parade this fall.
The group finished fourth overall, against marching bands from both 4A and 5A schools.
“Those are much bigger than us,” said Patrick Smith, Pueblo West High School band director.
“So that was very cool. A first for us. And we also placed third in our division (4A).”
The marching band has been busy so far this year, and with marching season nearing its end, students are transitioning into concert band, jazz band, percussion ensemble and color guard.
The marching band started rehearsals in July.
The early start gives new students a chance to get the hang of marching fundamentals.
The band performed in the Pueblo West Fourth of July parade, an “excellent opportunity” to try out newly learned skills, Smith said.
In August, the marching band placed third in the competition at the Western Welcome Week in Littleton.
Smith said that parade is a popular one, bringing about 50,000-60,000 people in attendance.
Band members have also been busy playing for home football games and various community events.
Band ended last year with 68 kids, and is up to 85 members this year, which Smith called a “pretty significant jump in numbers.”
He said the growth is a combination of retention and gaining kids from middle school.
Because there are so many students, they are split across three class periods during the day, because the entire band does not fit into the current band room. Still, Smith noted there is “light at the end of the tunnel” as the school district is preparing to break ground for the new fine arts wing of the school around Thanksgiving.
Since the band doesn’t rehearse all together on a daily basis, during marching season they get together on Fridays for about a three-hour rehearsal.
“Band is a huge commitment for these kids,” Smith said.
“They sacrifice a tremendous amount of time. We try to balance it so we’re not completely monopolizing their time and they have plenty of time to do their academic business as well.”
Smith said jazz band (there are two different groups) has become more and more popular for the students, but because it is not yet offered as a class at the high school, the students in jazz band volunteer their time.
The 40 or so students meet before and after school to rehearse.
Students in band pay the same CHSAA fees as athletes do, and follow the same guidelines for participation.
In previous years the band and booster club did major fundraising to purchase new uniforms for the band.
Because the numbers continue to grow, Smith said they’ve continued to need to purchase more uniforms – at about $400 each.
“This year the school district met us halfway. We purchased 20 uniforms and the district bought 10 of them, which I thought was really cool,” Smith said.
As the students transition into concert band and others, they’re preparing for a very busy spring.
Band members will participate in several jazz festivals, including La Junta, Apple Blossom, UNC and more, as well as several other performances and appearances including Music in the Parks in Denver.
Smith said as long as the weather is cooperative, the band will participate in the Pueblo West Parade of Lights in December to support the community. Small groups from the band also do private parties and appear throughout the community during the holidays.
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