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Michigan Competing Band Association State Finals

By Johanne Ray-Hepp

            The Plymouth-Canton Marching Band came in second place at the Michigan Competing Band Association (MCBA) State Finals on November 4th at Detroit’s famous Ford Field. The Rockford High School marching band won with their show entitled “Tao” and took home the Flight I banner with a score of 94.025, winning all three captions  -- Outstanding Visual Performance, Outstanding General Effect, and Outstanding Music Performance, with Novi High School tied for the latter. Plymouth-Canton came in slightly less than one point behind with a score of 93.175.  The 2017 show “a-Round” has been a crowd- and student-favorite since bringing the rotating stages on the field. The band has taken first place in all of the state level competitions it has competed in up to this point, and came in fourth at the Bands of America regional in Toledo, which included bands from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Michigan.

            While the weather has been quite mild all season, the evening was eventful as rain and lightning rolled in. Students may not warm-up outside if lightning is detected, so the schedule took on a 15-20 minute delay as bands coming in ready to perform needed to take shelter. This impacted the last three bands to perform in Flight I: Novi, Plymouth-Canton, and Rockford. Fortunately, the many Plymouth-Canton Music Boosters volunteers kept the competition moving smoothly.

            Jenison High School won in Flight II with a score of 93.025, regaining the title from Reeths-Puffer, and all three captions.  In Flight III Lakeshore Stevenson won for the third consecutive year with a score of 91.025, and winning the Music and Visual captions, and second-place DeWitt High School winning the General Effect Caption. Godwin Heights jumped from fourth place in Flight IV in 2016 to first this year, taking all three captions.

            Plymouth-Canton has a history of adding new components to each show for audience interest and entertainment. The state performance added choreography and colorful tarps to the spinning stages adding visual contrast. The woodwind quartet that opens the show modified the music, and a trombone solo was added, played by Javier Garza.  

            The front ensemble, or pit percussion is expanded this year, including electric bass played by senior Rachel Browning, and a drum set feature played by senior Joe Jankowski. Joe is proud to rejoin the marching band, and is an exciting visual presence for the audience. He is a member of several local pop/rock bands, and plays for charity events benefitting the Northville Living and Learning Center. The senior leadership will pass role model baton to front ensemble juniors Armando Saucedo on marimba, and Ty See, a convert from alto saxophone, who joined the pit percussion when knee problems kept him from traditional marching. Freshmen Karlee Forrester and Benjamin Hodge have grown tremendously as players throughout the season, taking on new challenges. Sophomore Lauren Jensen on synthesizer says her “favorite part of the show is Part III. It is upbeat and fast with ‘You Spin Me Round.’ It’s a catchy melody that gets the audience going.” Percussion director James Spalding is proud of how the group, made up of several students who are new to percussion have been making progress. “As it gets cleaner (more accurate as an ensemble) I find myself not having to worry so much.”

The band will conclude the 2017 season at the Bands of America Grand Nationals competition in Indianapolis. They will play in Preliminary Performance on Friday, November 10th, along with five other Michigan bands that are scheduled to perform including Jenison, Lakeland, Troy Athens, Mount Pleasant, and Walled Lake Central. The top thirty bands will go on to Semi-Finals on Saturday, November 11th, in which Plymouth-Canton has placed in every year it has participated. Should the band place in the top twelve, it will go on to Grand Nationals Finals Saturday evening. The band has won the Grand National Championship three times, establishing its position as one of the top marching bands in the United States.        

There will not be much time for rest – the winter guard and winter percussion programs will begin just days after returning! For more information, please see the band website,


Plymouth-Canton Marching Band Continues Winning Streak

By Johanne Ray-Hepp

The Plymouth-Canton Educational Park Marching Band takes a moment to reflect before taking the field at the Clarkston Invitational. (Photo: Julie O'Connor)The Plymouth-Canton Educational Park Marching Band takes a moment to reflect before taking the field at the Clarkston Invitational. (Photo: Julie O'Connor)The Plymouth-Canton Marching Band won first place in the MCBA (Michigan Competing Band Association) competition in Clarkston on October 21st with a score of 91.8. The band also won all three captions for Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect. The 2017 show entitled a-rOund incorporates the musical form called a round, many round visual images in the show, and new this week, a rotating stage.

Jason Wonsowski, crew chief, has been helping to build the mechanically complex stages. There are a number of adults that are working on them in addition to their day jobs. It will take four adults per stage (there are three) to set it up. “This is something that has never been done before. We are lucky to have this crown jewel of a marching band right here in our schools.” A crew of 25 adults in addition to the students are needed to put this production on the field within the three-minute set-up time, and following the performance has a two-minute limit to clear the field or risk a point penalty. Plymouth-Canton marching band is nationally known for pushing the envelope on innovation and state of the art aesthetic approaches to marching band. The band has won the Bands of America Grand Nationals three times, and is looking forward to representing the Plymouth-Canton community at Nationals the weekend of November 10th.

Mila Garza, a sophomore trumpet player said that the experience was “really great to work together as a team, putting all the props together and showing everybody what we can do.” Senior flutist Lauren Hull who has been in the band all four years said that the difference this year was that “the last year makes everything more important. Every competition you get closer to the end. Your last time being in this band program.” She is looking forward to the trip to nationals. She chose to play flute because not only did her best friend play it, she continued the legacy of her mom, who also played flute.

Field Commanders Gina Dossantos, Matt Milanovich, Madison Rosol, Katy Wilmarth, Catherine Christenson, Christian Vacca, and Lauren Garvey accept the trophies at the Clarkston competition. (Photo: Julie O'Connor)Field Commanders Gina Dossantos, Matt Milanovich, Madison Rosol, Katy Wilmarth, Catherine Christenson, Christian Vacca, and Lauren Garvey accept the trophies at the Clarkston competition. (Photo: Julie O'Connor)Band Booster president Nancy Milanovich, the mother of senior drum major son Matthew and sophomore flutist Marissa, is so thrilled and proud of the band. She said the feeling in the stands was just somehow different. “The kids exuded a higher level of confidence. It was just a notch or two above what we have seen so far.” Parents in the group wondered if the new props added visual intrigue, or if it was just a result of higher performing level. Obviously, the judges agreed.

“A point of pride is just the amount of work that’s gone in by the entire community of kids, staff and parents to finally see the stages out there, knowing that we started talking about those in January -- to finally see that felt good for the kids who were on it, and the parents” beamed director G. Jon Thomann in a moment of reflection. “As far as their performance and achievement tonight goes, we were very happy with the effort today. We have even better performances to come, I think. It was a solid learning night. What we learned tonight was that if the students really want to achieve greatness, that’s going to have to happen every single opportunity they have. The crowd really enjoys the show this year – there were a lot of applause points. The judging community really enjoys it. They say they want to see it again. They understand it, and think it’s super clever. It’s fun and [the students] buy into it for sure. We still have three weeks to dig in.”

The band will perform at the Great Lakes Invitational, a competition the band annually hosts at the Canton stadium on October 28th. MCBA State Finals are on November 4th at Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions, in downtown Detroit. The top twelve bands in each of four flights, based on the size of the school will perform their final statewide performance. The Bands of America national competition circuit is not affiliated with MCBA. Michigan bands that are scheduled to perform include Jenison, Lakeland, Troy Athens, Mount Pleasant, Walled Lake Central, and Plymouth-Canton.


Plymouth-Canton Marching Band Braves Weather and Continues Winning Streak

By Johanne Ray-Hepp

P-CEP Marching Band Flutes at Livonia Franklin on October 14thThe P-CEP Marching Band flutes strike a pose in the rain (Photo: Julie O'Connor)Plymouth-Canton,MI - Despite the rainy weather and necessary adaptations, the Plymouth-Canton Marching Band exceeded its previous score to win the Flight I Michigan Competing Band Association (MCBA) at Livonia Franklin High School on Saturday, October 14th with a score of 90.725. Again, the Pride of Plymouth earned the highest score of any band that has performed in the competition circuit so far this year.

While marching band, by its very nature is an outdoor activity, rain can damage equipment; therefore, the front ensemble of melody percussion, drum set, and electronics opted to leave the equipment safe in the truck, and not perform. Other adaptations to this year’s show, entitled “ā-rOund,” included Alyssa Scott’s shift from her bassoon feature to alto saxophone. Bassoons are made of wood, and cannot be played outdoors in the rain, so Alyssa transposed from a C instrument in bass clef, to an E-flat instrument in treble clef to play her part in a woodwind feature that also includes a bass clarinet, euphonium and flute. This demonstrated professional-level skills and is a feat to be admired.

Liam Rennolds, a sophomore vibraphone player, had the opportunity to watch the show from a different perspective since the front ensemble, formerly known as “pit percussion” in some bands, could not play. “We definitely heard where our parts were compared to the rest of the band.” Band parent and photographer Julie O’Connor commented on how the kids thought it was interesting to be able to watch the band, since in performance, their backs are to them. She said they really thought it was pretty cool to get the bigger visual picture, and be in the moment with them.

P-CEP Marching Band Quartet at Livonia FranklinThe P-CEP Marching Band features a quartet during their performance of “ā-rOund” at Livonia Franklin High School (Photo: Julie O'Connor)Other soloists that made significant adjustments included senior Sarah Wene on flute, and junior Cooper Rossio on euphonium. Since they could not use electronic amplification, or rely on staff members adjusting the equalizer, their musicianship skills required projection beyond normal circumstances. Playing the typically quiet flute in a duet with the much stronger timbre of a euphonium demanded both musicians play with sensitivity to balance. These featured parts are given by audition. Sarah said that when she found out she was selected, it was “pretty exciting, but I tried to keep myself calm. I didn’t want others to feel bad, but inside I was super happy.” Cooper originally wanted to be a saxophone player, but is happy he landed on euphonium, a brass instrument closely related to the baritone. The marching baritone is more or less like a larger, heavier trumpet, but the symphonic version, which has a bell that goes up, more like a smaller tuba. It has a better sound, and is used in a duet with Sarah. He had to adjust to the rain by emptying the water out of the bell occasionally. His favorite part of the season so far? “I would probably have to say this performance. We didn’t have the front ensemble [electronics] with us, but we still managed to pull through.” Sarah is happy that the band has finished the show, and are now at the point of cleaning it up. Cooper is looking forward to adding the spinning props, even though he will probably not be on it himself.

Guard members Rori Kennedy, 12th grade, Allie Walter, 10th grade, and Hannah Passerman, 9th grade, also reflected how the rain impacted their performance. Rori said “The flag is definitely heavier. You have to pull down a lot more. They get stuck and you get a sail a lot. (This is when the silk of the flag gets caught on the end cap on top). You just stay in time the best you can. It’s a lot of fun. It can be hard, but it’s totally worth it.” Allie added, “It’s our family!” Hannah loves how everyone is a big team. “When you walk in the door, everyone greets you, and everyone is super nice, and you always feel super welcome here.”

The band has won the Bands of America Grand Nationals three times, and is looking forward to representing the Plymouth-Canton community at Nationals the weekend of November 10th. Other upcoming performances include a competition in Clarkston on October 21st, the Great Lakes Invitational that takes place at the Canton stadium on the 28th, and MCBA State Finals on November 4th at Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions, in downtown Detroit.