Mighty Hawks Marching Excellence

Karly McQuay

Janet Maldonado
Starting in early August, The Mighty Hawks have some of the most intense practices of all UHS programs.

For the first time ever, the Urbana band will be performing in the Bands of America Grand National Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana.  They will be competing against bands from all across the nation November 10th – 12th in what is acclaimed to be America’s most exciting marching band event.

Michael Harrison, band director, has only ever attended the National Championships as a spectator before and said that both he and his students are incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to perform.  Most bands will be two to three times the size of Urbana’s and will have prior experience competing at Nationals, but Harrison insisted that they will to be sure to represent UHS well.

The preparation for this competition, as well as the six others Urbana will be competing in this year, began last spring with weekly practices on Tuesday nights.  Things got more serious over the summer during the band’s two-week long camp with practices lasting from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.  The concept for the show this season was established last winter and finalized throughout the spring and summer with the National Championships in mind.  “Art of the State” is the title.

“It’s a play on words,” Harrison said.  “‘State of the Art’ was the original idea but [the show] evolved to be more about the process of becoming state of the art.”

Featuring a kaleidoscope of music, beginning with conservative, classical pieces by composers like Beethoven and Mozart before showcasing some of the most modern band music that exists, “Art of the State” attempts to portray the push back against the “rules of art” as time goes on.  The progression of music will be reflected in the use of props and color scheme within the color guard.

“It’s basically about rebelling against authority so that by the end we get to wear bright colors and then we turn the props around so they’re bright colors rather than the authority’s colors,” explained Emma Schaefer, a junior tenor saxophonist.

For most band students, this theme means playing music a lot older than what they are familiar with.  The integration of contrasting music is “the cool thing about the program,” as well as what makes it so difficult to perfect, according to Harrison.

“The juxtaposition is something we’ve not really tackled before,” said Harrison, but he remains confident in his students’ abilities, regardless.  “Our secret weapon is the work ethic of Urbana band kids. It sounds corny but it’s true.  I’ve never met harder working kids.”