Caught’n the Bowl’s buzz
The car washes, golf tournaments and bake sales paid off for 76 Wildcat musicians and flag corps members during a Dallas trip that culminated with a Friday performance at the Cotton Bowl.
"The work to go was all worth it," freshman Jake Petty said. "Once we got there everything went smoothly. The entire schedule was already made out for us; everything was well organized."
The Wildcats set out for Dallas at 6 a.m. Dec. 30 and returned at the same early-morning hour Saturday. The band and flag corps-members performed at the Cotton Bowl's televised halftime show. Band director Justin Love, Principal Debbie Lynn, a nurse, a number of chaperones and about 50 or so family members were on hand to watch the students participate in the performance and activities throughout the week.
The students also made plenty of non-televised performances while in Dallas. They were featured in a jazz band concert Dec. 31 as part of the Cotton Bowl's New Year's Eve celebration for bands performing at the game. The band earned first-place honors in its division. New Year's Day they marched in the pre-game parade and were awarded second place. A third-place finish in the concert band performance rounded out the group's collection of hardware.
"I'm just happy to have brought back everyone safely and with a lot of great stories and memories from the trip," said band director Justin Love. "The awards are a great accomplishment and a reflection of the kids we have."
The performances throughout the week and on the field during the halftime show were shared with a dozen other high school groups from across the country. Band members also competed in a music festival headed by a panel of national judges.
"We were competing against schools four to five times bigger than us," senior Matt Lowe said. "The trophies we have brought back reflect the quality of our performances and time down there."
The Dallas trip marked the third out-of-state trip for the band in the last five years. For many of the participants, it was their first taste of a high school adventure with their classmates.
"We weren't bothered by the cameras or the crowds, but the 6 a.m. trip was rough," freshman Megan Willert said. "The trips were a lot rougher than the pressure to perform in front of the cameras. Dallas was a great area with tons to do, and we had something going on all the time."
Like Willert, junior Mike Prescott said he felt a rush of adrenaline as soon as they hit the field Friday night. With the cameras clicking and the crowd of 60,000 roaring, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the moment. Despite the pressures of performing live, the group's attention never wavered.
"We had to deal with toilets and air conditioners breaking down on the bus on the way getting there," Prescott said. "But no one ever did anything to jeopardize the focus of the trip. It was all good-hearted goofing around, watching movies and nervous performances."
The band's action-packed four days in Dallas started with practices at 8 a.m. The group was sandwiched into a gymnasium with 2,000 other students from other high school bands from across the country and left to try and walk through their performances for the week.
During the trip, the favorable Dallas weather allowed the group to get out and see the city, including a history lesson at the JFK memorial museum, located near Delay Plaza. Getting out and seeing the city was a welcomed relief after an interesting bus ride Tuesday.
"The buses were quite an experience," said junior Erin Paulsen. "The bus drivers made things eventful."
At some point before one of the buses carrying students made it to Dallas, it broke down in Oklahoma. After switching drivers, the bus got started back on the road. Paulsen said the bus experiences were relatively moot after returning and seeing a taped copy of the group's performance.
"This was my second band trip after having gone to Colorado my freshman year," Paulsen said. "Having just watched the tape of our performance it seems to come across even better on television."
Many of the upperclassmen were especially thankful for the efforts underclassmen's to make the trip happen. The experience of playing at such a large venue is something the students will not soon forget, especially for the seniors who enter their last semester as high school students. The trip marked the last school road adventure as a class for most of them.
"Playing in front of 60,000 people is the most exciting, most exhilarating performance I have ever been a part of during my high school band career," said senior Brady Groothuis.
Groothuis was quick to thank one person in particular for being the architect of the trip and the band's four-year run together band -- director Justin Love.
"The man truly is the 'Doctor of Love,'" Groothuis said.