Numbering 64 strong, the Oberlin High School band is the largest to march the school’s field since the turn of the millennium, director Len Gnizak said.
The growing number is a good thing — last year, the group broke the record at 59 members — because 64 marchers can make a perfect square block, he said.
This way, geometric shape formations are visible on the field. One song in this year’s lineup is a mashup of two Ed Sheeran songs — “Shape of You” and “Castle on a Hill” — and Gnizak is working to choreograph a castle arrangement.
The 2018 group is also one of the most athletically diverse, with three football Phoenix players, one volleyball player, and eight soccer players.
More bodies on the field lets musicians take breaks when they get tired. In a section of 10 trumpets, six could be playing while three take a few breathing breaks, and the line of music would still be heard, Gnizak said.
The only downside is getting everyone into uniform.
Seventy uniforms were purchased in March to replace the old and deteriorating ones worn for more than 25 years. There are enough uniforms for every band member, but not necessarily for all the right shapes and sizes.
“What are the odds of me getting everyone in a uniform? I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t know if we’re going to get everyone fitted,” Gnizak said.
He said the band “can’t afford to not have everybody participate,” so there is no audition process — if students are interested, they are welcomed. Four members in the group have never played an instrument before.
Seven seniors are vying to lead the band as drum major. Gnizak said he is looking for someone with organization skills who can command attention and respect from peers.
Fans can expect to hear part of the score from “The Incredibles 2,” “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons, “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry, “7/11” by Beyonce, “Light My Fire” by The Doors, and “All I Need is a Miracle” by Mike and The Mechanics.
Middle- and high-schoolers gravitate toward contemporary tunes, but Gnizak is trying to mix up the set list this year and pitched the older hits as “pieces Mom and Dad are going to love.”
A performance at Disney World in Florida is scheduled for April. Fundraising will be a top priority to cover three nights of lodging, park fees, and transportation. Gnizak is estimating the cost to exceed $900 per student.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.