St. C. Marching Band Earns ‘Superior’ Rating

Photos courtesey of Lauren Nicole Photography Members of the St. Clairsville High School Marching Band Color Guard post during a varsity football game during the 2018 season. The band marched into the Ohio Music Education Association state band competition at the end of the season and earned the school’s first ever Superior rating in the state’s highest adjudicated event for high school marching bands.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — After three years of being a bridesmaid, the St. Clairsville High School Marching Band finally became a bride last fall.

The 83-member unit, under the direction of Justin Schwertfeger, earned the program’s first Superior rating following three consecutive years of garnering Excellent awards at the state marching band contest.

Although Excellent ratings are certainly a worthy honor, Schwertfeger said, the Superior rating was a welcome accolade.

“That was really exciting,” he said. “If you get a Superior at the regional competition you’re invited to the state competition, and that’s a whole different level there.”

St. Clairsville competed regionally in Ohio Music Education Association events at Louisville, Zanesville, Warren Local, Meadowbrook and New Philadelphia before moving to Brunswick for the state competition. It was a fitting end, Schwertfeger said, for a group that had put in hours and hours of hard work, beginning in the sweltering days of summer.

“The kids,” he said, “they work their tails off in the off season. But it’s such a rewarding experience. Why else would you want to march around with an instrument in the 100-degree weather all summer.”

Like football players and other athletes who participate in fall sports, marching band members use summer months — mainly July — to put in place their plans for the upcoming season. For the Red Devil unit, that means days of toiling in the sweltering sun at home and on the road.

“We start practicing about once a week during the summer,” Schwertfeger explained. “Then, at the end of July, we do a week’s worth of practices at St. Clairsville and a week at Bethany College.”

That’s where the band fine tunes its show, which is usually presented to the public for the first time at the opening football game. And just like a game, a halftime show involves numerous facets that must come together at just the right moment.

“Last year, we had over 50 sets in a seven-minute show,” Schwertfeger explained.

That includes members of the band, flag corps and auxiliary.

“I think these kids enjoy diving into the more difficult music and trying to really play it well and stay true to a high standard,” Schwertfeger said.

When Schwertfeger, a Brooke High alum, arrived at St. Clairsville eight years ago, one of his goals was to not just improve the unit in how it marched, but heighten its music knowledge, too.

“We’ve worked really hard to build the numbers up and to build the excitement up,” he said. “We have a pretty good balance. I remember when we first started we couldn’t get a tuba player. Now, we have five.”

Last fall, the band presented its show — “Under my Umbrella” — in competition a handful of times, earning numerous awards, including honors for best auxiliary and best percussion.

“We’re already planning for next year’s show,” said Schwertfeger, who also directs many of the feeder bands in the St. Clairsville district. “It’s long hours, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of the rest of the staff, parents, boosters and the administration.”

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