For the first time, Bozeman School District will have two marching bands playing in Montana State University’s Showcase of Bands this weekend after the event was canceled last year due to COVID-19.
The university’s fourth annual marching band exhibition at Bobcat Stadium brings high schools from around the state to show off their marching band performances and watch the university’s own marching band, Spirit of the West, perform.
The event, free to the public, is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 16.
“It’s a show-and-tell of what everyone is doing across the state for marching band and every marching band gets to see each other play,” said Stephen Versaevel, assistant director of MSU’s marching band.
Versaevel said the event has been growing year over year. With newcomers like Bozeman’s Gallatin High School and Havre High School slated to perform this year, there will six high school bands attending.
“Montana is a pretty large state so for them to be able to come together and show them that we’re something of a tight knit community, it gives them some motivation to go back home and do that much better for their community,” Versaevel said.
For some of the bands like Bozeman and Gallatin high schools, it gives them an opportunity to perform their full routine before a regional championship in Pullman, Washington, at the end of October.
Since the early 1990s, Bozeman High School has been the only marching band from Montana competing in the championship, said Kelly Berdahl, director of bands for Bozeman High.
This year, he said, there will also be Gallatin and Havre high schools.
“It’s just been nice to be the ambassadors towards the other groups with that in mind,” Berdahl said.
This year, the Bozeman Hawks will be performing three songs by the punk rock band Green Day.
Jeffrey Ruffcorn, director of bands for Gallatin High, said he was excited and nervous for the upcoming showcase, the first time the 37 students will wear Gallatin High marching band uniforms
“I want them to succeed, I want them to feel accomplished … I want them to be proud of what they put out there. I’m excited to have them show all of their hard work,” Ruffcorn said.
Gallatin High’s performance, called “Inevitable,” will feature music form Metallica and the Rolling Stones. Ruffcorn said it was born out of the last year and was about embracing the things we can’t change because change is inevitable.
The first year of establishing Gallatin High’s marching band has been a lot of learning, Ruffcorn said.
“The students want this to be as positive as possible. They want us to succeed but they want to do it in such a healthy way of community first and then we’ll make these things happen,” Ruffcorn said.
Three of the five GHS marching band seniors were in Ruffcorn’s wind ensemble class and talked with the Chronicle about the upcoming showcase and the working they’re doing to create a lasting legacy for Gallatin High students.
“It’s meant so much to me being a part of the founding members,” said Cami Yovich, marching band president.
While Yovich has performed at MSU’s showcase as a Bozeman High student before the second high school opened, she missed not having the performance last year, especially since it would have been Gallatin High’s inaugural one.
Tom Rath, trumpet player and drum major in the marching band, said was excited forward for Saturday’s event.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what the other bands in the state have put together since it’s been so long since there’s been a showcase,” Rath said.
Katherine Shaw, oboe player and drum major in the marching band, said the showcase would be a bonding opportunity for the marching band.
“It’ll be really cool to put our first show out there and see that happen,” Shaw said. “… We’ll be there together for five hours on Saturday and I’m excited about that and the community we’re building.”
The three GHS marching band students who spoke with the Chronicle said it was exciting and fun to be a part of the high school’s first marching band and to help establish the group’s identity.
“We’ve been working a lot on traditions for marching band and trying to create it in a way we want it because we want a really inclusive group and fun traditions that make practice better,” Shaw said.
MSU’s showcase will be a new experience for many of the Bozeman and Gallatin students, with both the freshman and sophomore classes having never performed in a setting like it.
Yovich said her favorite part about marching band was the feeling it was a true band family. As a freshman student at Bozeman High, Yovich said, she was taken in and supported by some of the seniors at the time.
It was something she was looking forward to replicating at Gallatin High “so that the freshmen now feel like they have that and they can carry that through their four years as part of the band. It’s really important to me and what’s kept me in band,” Yovich said.
The students and two band directors both said there’s not really a rivalry between the schools’ two marching bands but a sense of healthy competition.
“It’s incredibly supportive …. It’s been nice to have that opportunity to have two bands helps push each other to continue growing. We have that ability to challenge each other but it’s not competitive,” Rushcorn said. “We keep raising each other up.”