John Buskirk (center), drum major for the Payson High School Marching Band, directs Sierra McMartin (left) and Hannah Anderson in a trombone warm-up before their performance.
The Payson High School marching band drummed and danced its way to fourth place against 31 other Division 3 bands at the state semi-finals on Saturday, Nov. 5.
“I’m proud of them, but now I’m preparing for the finals,” said Daria Mason, the high school band director the day after the semi-finals.
Payson ranked sixth among Division 3 bands going into the competition, but came out of the semi-finals fourth. This Saturday, Nov. 12 the band will travel to the state finals in Glendale.
When Hannah Dalgai, a senior who has participated in band since her junior high years at RCMS, heard the news of the band’s ranking she said, “I was so excited. I was yelling and jumping. Since this is my senior year, I am so excited and I wish we had more competitions.”
In this final competition, the band’s scores will be compared to the other bands in their division to determine its overall state ranking.
The last time the band went to the state finals, the band had fewer members. As a result, it competed at the Division 4 level with different standards.
“The judges are saying, ‘I haven’t seen Payson for five or six years and this is not the same Payson band,’” said Mason.
Mason has choreographed a unique performance.
While most bands pick classic scores such as Beethoven or show tunes, Mason picked African music. Other bands dress up their color guard in costumes made of sequins and satin, Mason designed her own African-themed costumes.
Unlike other bands that hold onto their instruments for the whole performance, the Payson band members at one point leave behind their instruments to pick up spears. While the drummers pound a war dance beat, they stomp across the field to yell, “Huh!” as warriors would do. Meanwhile, the color guard grabs African masks, dancing in the background to complete the war dance theme.
In order to qualify for the state finals, the band had to obtain a ranking of ‘excellent,’ said Mason. They did that their first time out at the Mountain Point Invitational on Sept. 25.
Since that first competition this year, the band has competed in the Prescott Invitational the Goldwater Invitational, the Agua Ria Invitational and the state semi-finals.
The band received an ‘excellent’ at all of its competitions this year.
Inspiring the band to push for a ‘superior’ ranking this week will challenge Mason.
“I see their potential, but what they don’t realize is their potential goes out into infinity. This week is about showing them how to get there,” said Mason.
Maybe the band will simply scare the judges into granting them a ‘superior.’