It had been more than 600 days since the Columbus High School Marching Band had taken the field in competition.
Due to COVID-related precautions, the group was unable to attend any regional competitions and the state championships were cancelled in October 2020.
The new season began in June as the co-curricular activity began preparations for the fall. Most students had never marched competitively before and there were 13 middle school students out of 46 performers joining the competitive group.
Due to the abnormal school year, band students in grades 6-12 fell behind with set standards and skill levels.
Tim Meinholz, director of bands, and his staff prepared with the idea that this would be a rebuilding year for the band. Music selection, concept and arrangements had to be set at a level that was achievable by the members.
Music selected included “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga, “The Show Must Go On” by Queen and two movements from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” Jacob Hammer, assistant director, arranged the wind music as well as the mallet percussion parts. Stephan Cherek, the percussion coordinator who has been working with the Marching Cardinals for the past seven seasons, arranged the battery book and auxiliary percussion parts to compliment Hammer’s arrangements.
Cortney Hammer, visual director, created a drill design that was easy, yet visually impactful with a smaller group.
Emily Rohloff, with the assistance of Elizabeth Chua, created the guard choreography and taught it to a small group of guard members. Due to injuries, the guard only marched three members this past season.
The first competition the Marching Cardinals participated in was hosted by Franklin High School. There were several marching ensembles at the venue, including three in the class A category that the CHS Band participates in. At the end of the evening the marching band scored high enough to take first-place in class A and best percussion in both A and AA classes.
The second competition was at Greendale High School. This competition prides itself on bringing in some of the best bands in this area. Again, there were three bands in class A that evening. However, one of the bands the Marching Cardinals did not face the week before. The band scored high enough to once again, take first-place in class A competition.
One week later, the CHS Band headed to Milton for their final competition before the state championships. They faced two other ensembles that night and again, the marchers took first-place in class A. This completed a sweep of all competitions they participated in around the southern half of the state.
The CHS Marching Cardinals had their final performance for judging on Oct. 16 at the Wisconsin School Music Association State Marching Band Championships where seven bands from across the state in the class A category were featured. A few of these ensembles the band had not competed against during the fall. The marching powerhouses of Cumberland High School and Baldwin Woodville High School were on display that day immediately following the CHS Band performance.
The final scores were tallied and the Marching Cardinals earned third-place while taking the best percussion caption.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our students and their achievements this year! I didn’t realize how quickly they grew as musicians and it was evident in their performances this year! What I had anticipated being a rebuilding year turned out to be a continuation of where we left off two years ago. The resiliency of our students and having a great marching staff made this a year to remember,” said Meinholz.
Tim Meinholz is director of bands for Columbus High School.