BIDDEFORD — Biddeford High School’s marching band, after a 10-year hiatus, began practice last wee. It’s comprised of a group of passionate students who are ready to learn and have fun.

Right now, the marching band is working on its fall show, which will be performed on Nov. 2. Christopher Ferrell, BHS’s marching band director, said that this would not have been possible without the overwhelming community effort and support.

Ferrell said that 31 students have gotten involved so far, and he will be accepting new students through the first week of school.

He added that the challenge of a new activity has been exciting for the students, most of whom have no previous marching band experience.

Going into his eighth year of teaching, Ferrell has had experience on South Portland’s marching band as a percussion instructor, but he said that this is as new for him as the students involved.

“The passion of the kids is unbelievable,” Ferrell said. “They’ve been the driving force. It’s unbelievable to see kids take to it so seamlessly.”

Throughout the school year, practices will be every Tuesday and Thursday evening, Ferrell said. The program wants to be flexible and accommodate students’ extracurricular schedules.

Eric Desmarais, the marching band’s color guard coach, which is the nonmusical and performance-based section, said that the first week of official practice has been going well.

Desmarais said he has been participating in marching band since high school and enjoys the community aspect that the activity brings.

“It takes more physical endurance than most people think,” he said. “People don’t understand what goes into marching band.”

Ferrell agreed, noting a few challenges some students may face.

“The athletic component is huge,” he said. “It’s basically an eight-minute sprint. You’re constantly on the move. Performance anxiety comes into play.”

Memorizing a piece of music as well as the movement set can be one of the hardest parts of marching, Ferrell said.

“It’s not what [the students] are used to,” he said. “They are all taking to it and owning it. It’s hard and it’s a challenge. They have something new.”

Mark Manduca, the marching band director for Old Orchard Beach High School, said that he was extremely pleased to find out that BHS was bringing back its marching band. For the past few years, OOB High School has been accepting BHS students into its program, as well as other districts.

“I think the public needs to know how special marching band is,” he said. “I wish the publicity were just as strong as the athletics. It’s one of the biggest scholastic events each year. Anywhere from 800 to 900 students compete.”

OOB is taking a different approach to this year’s November performance, Manduca said. Their show will be dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, with students in appropriate NASA-related attire.

“The goal is to ramp up the visual part of the show,” he added. “We’re in a challenging show from a marching standpoint.”

As for BHS, Ferrell, who has never directed a whole marching band before, said that he’s still learning what exactly goes into the job.

“More and more each day I learn about what the position entails,” he said. “With all the practicing on the field, getting rained out one day this week and having to practice the music inside, I was constantly looking at weather updates online. It didn’t occur to me that so much was weather-related.”

Although there are challenges involved, marching band’s benefit of helping students’ physical and mental abilities improve is just one of many reasons why people are interested in the program, Manduca said.

He added that it appeals to all aspects of learning an instrument.

“I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like music,” Manduca said. “Marching band involves trips, being part of a team—it’s a concert in motion, a sound sport. It’s a strong group of musicians who are serious about music.”

While the program is new for Biddeford, Ferrell said everything has been going smoothly, and overall, he’s excited to see how the performance turns out.

Ferrell added, “It’s all about making sure the students have a great experience.”

 — Catherine Bart can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9029.

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