As all zombie movie fans know, the dead can walk. At Northwest, the dead also march — and do The Lindy, and win a Maryland State Championship.
The Northwest High School Marching Jaguar Band took home the school’s first “real” state championship by winning the USBands Maryland State Championship at Towson University on Saturday, Oct. 21.
The band’s 2017 show is called, “The Marching Dead” complete with zombies and a story about how “music heals everything” won the Group II-A Championship with a score of 89.575. The Marching Jags beat eight other bands in their group from around Maryland.
While this is not the first time the Northwest band has been crowned champs, it is the first time it really means something, according to Northwest Marching Band Director Emily Carpenter. “Technically the band won the state championship in 2009. However, they were the only band in their division, so they won by default. As far as we are concerned, it is the first time we have truly won the state championship.”
The Marching Jags also won awards in specialty categories of Music, Visual, and Overall General Effect. “It is rare that one band gets all three of these caption awards, so it was a big deal for us,” said Carpenter.
While the program was about a zombie apocalypse, it is pretty uplifting, according to Carpenter, who took over the Northwest Marching Jags two years ago. “The show is called ‘The Marching Dead,’ and it was an idea, my assistant director, Dave Eason brought to me. He had the idea of music healing the zombies over the course of the show, and with the creative team we have it we believed it would be something we could really bring to life and would play to our strengths.”
The show begins with the pre-show, which has the band warming getting attacked by zombies, which is the band’s color guard. The band starts the show as zombies, she explained. There is a sub-plot of a mom and her daughter at the beginning get attacked, and the mother gets turned into a zombie in an effort to save her daughter. The daughter then becomes the driving force to help turn everyone back into people to save her mom.
The first movement is an original composition called “They Awake” written by former Northwest marching band director Kevin Rouse.
“As the show continues the band starts to shed their zombie masks and wigs,” said Carpenter. The program’s second movement starts with a “music box melody” which is an arrangement of Adagio in D (by composer John Murphy) that starts to bring the zombies back. Towards the end of the song, a car alarm interrupts the music, and the zombies turn back into zombies.
The daughter then finds a car radio which starts to play Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” and the zombies, and the color guard do a Lindy, the music and joy once again start to turn the band back into people.
“The Color Guard dance with life-size Zombies made by one of our awesome parents, Rich Shegogue,” said Carpenter. “It is a really fun song and something most people recognize. By the fourth movement, we have figured out that music is what heals the zombies and the band enters the field in full uniform for the first time, not as zombies, but as people. It is a true marching band moment and close to the show. At the very end, you see the mother and daughter reunited.” The final movement is another original composition by Kevin Rouse.
Rouse is now the band director at Wootton High School, and they won the Group III-A Championship at Towson on Saturday.
Carpenter credited the seniors and Drum Major Asa DeVries with setting the tone for the band this year. “The seniors have made this program over the last four years.Their first two years were a struggle. With a new director always comes some growing pains so to speak. Change is never easy, but by their junior year, this year’s senior class came together along with last year’s senior class and turned this band around and decided they wanted to rehearse and perform like champions,” said Carpenter. “I could not be more proud of this senior class for the tenacity they have shown, and I also couldn’t be happier for them that they get to be the leaders in this states’ victory.”
“Asa started as a freshman and just understands marching band,” said Carpenter. “He is an incredible musician and great leader. He is very well respected by his peers and that’s why he has been so successful this year. He set the tone as to how this year was going to play out. The staff can only do so much. We can give them great music and drill and fun idea but, ultimately it is up to the students to put in the work and do all the details. It starts with Asa and goes into the seniors and section leaders to help keep everything moving forward.”
No performance is complete without the folks that work behind the scenes to make things happen, and The Marching Dead is no exception. Carpenter was quick to point out the time and energy that the band parents put into making this show a success.
“We have an incredible group of parents that help to build all our sets and help maintain them. They also are the ones who move them on the field and put them together and take them apart. They load trucks and bring food and snacks for the kids. They are incredible, and this show would not work without their help and support,” said Carpenter.
She explained that in USBands competitions school bands compete in the tournament based on the size of the band, not the size of the school. “The size of a band has an impact on the sound and how much they can or cannot do for drill,” said Carpenter. “By classifying bands by size, it really helps to make the competition as fair as possible.”
Top: The Marching Dead: the zombified Northwest Marching Jaguars as they performed in the USBands Maryland State Championship at Towson University on Saturday, Oct. 21.
Video: The entire Maryland State Championship performance by The Marching Jaguars of their show, “The Marching Dead.”
Next: The Marching Dead doing the Lindy to “In The Mood” during halftime at a Northwest football game. Photo by Germantown Pulse.
Next: Another shot of zombies during halftime at Northwest. Photo by Germantown Pulse.
Next: The marching seniors celebrating their Maryland State Championship.
Next: Band director Emily Carpenter along with Assistant Director Dave Eason and Color Guard Coach Jasmin Parks celebrating the band’s victory.
Photos and video courtesy Northwest High School Band.