Warrior Words: Meet me at the 45-yard line

“Oh … you’re in band?” This is the typical reaction I receive whenever I tell someone from outside of Wilton that I’m in the marching band.

Without fail, people look at me quizzically and I can all but feel them mentally labeling me as a stereotypical “band geek.” But the Wilton band is far from stereotypical. Over the past few years, I have come to realize that the Wilton High School marching band is simply something that must be seen to be believed.

A growing trend among high school marching bands is to create performances that look more like theatrical productions than traditional football game halftime shows. It’s not uncommon for bands to wheel grand pianos onto the 50-yard line, or to pull into the parking lot with tractor-trailers containing elaborate plywood backdrops to put on the field. Baton twirlers, flag twirlers, color guards, and drill teams are as integral to their performances as trombones and flutes. While these bands undoubtedly execute technically challenging performances, they almost seem to compete with the football team for attention.

Our band’s approach is more traditional. Our focus is on entertaining the crowd during the game and with our halftime show, but in a way that builds on school spirit and has people tapping their toes and singing along. Wilton is one of the only bands left in Fairfield County that actually performs at football games, and the only one that travels to away games to support the team.

For over 30 years, Frank Gawle and John Rhodes have led the Warrior band and developed it into a spectacle that entertains and amazes fans at football games. They’ve chosen to focus our band on entertaining the crowd during halftime and keeping the team on its toes throughout the game. Mr. Gawle has even gone so far as to call us a “dance band” rather than a marching band. Why? If you’ve ever seen the Warrior band perform at a home game, you’ll understand. Like many college marching bands, we play songs that the fans will know. During my time in high school, we’ve covered classics like Thrille” and Hey Jude, and endured the humiliating dance moves that go along with them. Come to a Wilton football game and you’re likely to hear everything from Deep Purple to the Blues Brothers to Ozzy Osbourne.

Mr. Gawle and Mr. Rhodes recognize that band should first and foremost be fun. Unlike other high schools that hold auditions and practice every day after school for several hours, anyone interested in the Warrior band is welcome to join. With nearly 200 students, our band is made up of people from every sports team, just about every club in the school, and a wide variety of other extracurricular activities. Where else can varsity football players be in the marching band?

Almost everyone in Wilton High School is involved in one of four integral parts of the football experience: players, cheerleaders, band members, and fans. I don’t have enough muscle to play football or enough pep to be a cheerleader, but I wanted to be involved in something significant in the Warrior community.

As I said, you’ll have to see the Warrior band for yourself to believe it. Check out our next performance at Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 13. (Spoiler alert: You’ll get to see 50 woodwind players doing an outrageous disco dance. Look for me on the north 45-yard line with my clarinet.) Oh, and don’t forget to bring your Warrior pride.

Jillian Finkelstein is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.