SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Abington Heights High School seniors Abby Schmidt and Lauren Olevnik have been friends since elementary school, when they took dance lessons together.
Both took up the clarinet and later learned to play the drums. Both have been members of the high school marching band since their freshman year.
And this school year, they march together in the Comets drumline as section leaders.
The two girls said they enjoy playing the drums, but it’s the friendships formed with their fellow musicians which they love most about participating in the marching band.
“It’s the people,” Schmidt said. “Drumline is — well, we’re all so close.”
“It’s been fun learning new things and being with everyone,” she said. “You get to make lifelong friends.”
According to Eric Boylan, band director, this spirit of camaraderie, along with a strong sense of commitment among the musicians, defines the entire group.
“The band this year is absolutely awesome,” he said. “We have a group of leaders this year that is extremely committed to the program.”
One manifestation of that commitment comes in the band’s practice schedule. Throughout the summer, the students met for practice once a week, leading up to two weeks of band camp. During the academic year, they practice for an hour before the school day starts twice a week.
Boylan said this year’s band camp was “an extremely positive experience,” with good weather and opportunities to practice outdoors. The daily schedule was broken down into sections, beginning with the visual portion of the show, then practicing the music and ending the day by putting the first two portions together and practicing as a whole.
Siena Rainey, drum major, said marching band is one of her favorite activities and she appreciates the opportunity to be in a leadership position this year.
Boylan described Rainey as “one of the best musicians in our school.”
The junior, who plays the French horn, said this year’s marching band is looking “amazing” so far.
“When everyone can get together as a team, it makes the whole show better,” she said.
Drum major Drew Rothka, a senior who also plays the alto saxophone in concert band, said he believes this season of marching band will be his best ever.
“It’s a great group of kids and everyone is getting along really well,” he said.
Boylan said although the marching band did not compete last year, they performed “very well” and already improved in multiple aspects this season.
This year’s show is titled, “The 1980s,” with pop tunes from that era.
Boylan said the marching band will not participate in formal competitions during the 2016-17 school year, due mainly to its focus on a style that is more artistic and crowd-pleasing than competitive in nature. He said the students still maintain a competitive attitude and work ethic, however, striving to do their best, and the band does plan to perform in some local exhibitions.
Boylan added he is thankful for the way people support the marching band during the football games, treating it as a central part of the events.
“We really enjoy the community environment that we have here,” he said.
Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.