Bald Eagle Area Marching Band prepares for NYC Veterans Day parade

The Bald Eagle Area marching band practices “American March Clsasics” on Thursday, November 5, 2015 in preparation to march in America’s Parade, the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.
The Bald Eagle Area marching band practices “American March Clsasics” on Thursday, November 5, 2015 in preparation to march in America’s Parade, the Veterans Day Parade in New York City. CDT photo

Carrying something for hours that could be more than 50 pounds is a cakewalk for some Bald Eagle Area students.

After all, that’s what members of the Bald Eagle Area Marching Band’s drum line are used to.

The snare drum junior Caleigh Poorman plays is about 35 pounds — a similar weight to the other snare drums played by juniors Rachel Crock and Lacey Geyer. It’s also about the same weight as bass drums played by students Lorien Farber, Jeffrey Fry, Erica Krape and Logan Thompson.

The tenor drums sophomores Noah Hockenberry and Tony Talarigo play are a little closer to 50 pounds — and with additional drum accessories, could be heavier, Hockenberry said.

“It just depends on the size of the drum and what you’re working with,” he said. “But it’s not as bad as you think.”

To keep up with endurance and strength while attempting to strike the perfect beat of the drum, the drum line practices in intervals around the middle and high school parking lot.

“We start with like 20 minutes of nonstop practice, take a rest, and then do 30 minutes, 40 (minutes) and so on,” Crock said. “It gets us ready not just to play, but to have the motivation to keep going even if we’re tired.”

Since the beginning of the school year, practice for the marching band has intensified.

Director Kellie Long said regular practices were held on Wednesdays.

This year, Tuesday and Thursday turned into practice days to help prepare them to march in the annual America’s Parade on Veterans Day in New York City.

On Tuesday, about 75 members of the band were bused to the Big Apple.

The parade starts 11:25 a.m. Wednesday and goes from 23rd Street to 54th Street.

According to the parade website, the event should end about 3:30 p.m.

Bald Eagle Area students, staff and volunteers head back to Centre County later that night, Long said.

“This is not like a football show, so we’ve been practicing a little differently in parade formation,” Long said. “We’ve been getting them into shape, and working on spacing and stamina. The size of a block in New York is a lot different than a block in Milesburg.”

Band members were also required to memorize music.

Long said she won’t let them use music sheets during the parade.

The band will play patriotic music during the parade including American March Classics, a mix of patriotic-themed numbers.

After the BEA Marching Band participated in the same parade in 2009, WorldStrides OnStage programs invited the band to return, Long said.

By May, an application went out and the BEA Marching Band was approved to be part of the lineup.

“In my 11 years being here, this is the parade that meant the most,” Long said. “I remember being here before and getting thanks from veterans and people in the crowd. I remember thinking, ‘why are they thanking us? We should be the ones thanking them.’ So this is our way of giving back. It’s not just any parade; it really means something.”

And the band program is no stranger to marching in big scenes.

In 2012, they participated in the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C. They’ve also marched in two Disney World parades, Long said.

Seniors drum major Matt Blaylock and flute and piccolo player Karina Bloom were freshmen during the D.C. trip.

“I remember it being really overwhelming, but in a good way,” said Blaylock, who also plays the saxophone. “It puts a lot of pressure on us when we’re out there representing our school, and veterans, and doing this for them. It’s just a really special feeling every time, and a huge honor.”

The two also look at the Veterans Day parade as a “bittersweet sendoff,” Bloom said.

“It is sad, but exciting,” Bloom said. “It’s the last major thing we’re going to do with marching band before we graduate. We sometimes have a spring trip, but this is replacing that, and the end is sooner than I’d like.”

But music is going to be a part of Bloom’s life after graduation.

On Nov. 2, Bloom auditioned and made the U.S. Marine Corps Band. The tryout required her to play a prepared number, and play on-the-spot scales.

Bloom played the flute and piccolo for eight years, and was inspired to audition by her father who served in the Air Force. She also plays the alto saxophone, and sings.

“I’m still not sure if the military is the route I’ll go in for sure, but it’s an option that’s really close to my heart,” Bloom said.

If not, she plans to apply to college with hopes of studying music therapy.