By Bethany Bray
---- — It’s not just football season. It’s marching band season, too.
High school football teams begin playing games this weekend, and so do the schools’ marching bands. And like their football-playing classmates, band members have been practicing and running drills for weeks to prepare for the season.
At Salem High, preparations included a salsa dance lesson for the entire band and color guard to get in the groove for the Latin-inspired music in their marching show.
“It’s very different than any kind of show we’ve done before,” said band director Cynthia Napierkowski. “The kids are doing a great job with it. They absolutely love it.”
Salem, Beverly, Peabody and Danvers high schools all have 100 or more students in their bands, and all plan to perform at home football games and travel for festivals and competitions.
Peabody High’s band does not march during halftime at football games but plays a mix of jazz and rock favorites from the stands.
Beverly High School will have 134 students in its band and color guard this year, an increase of roughly 12 students over last year, said band director Adam Costa. The band will be getting new uniforms next month.
Although the Danvers High band has traveled to play at away football games in years past, this fall they’ll travel to just one — the Thanksgiving Day game at Gloucester High School.
School officials said they made that decision at the end of last year to give the band the most — and best — exposure. Shorter halftimes, band director Ronald Parsons explained, means a visiting band is often unable to perform its entire marching show.
Nathan Bonneau, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, said it’s not as common as it used to be to have two school bands wanting to march at halftime. Local athletic directors have the discretion to set the length of halftime, he said.
“We’re really the only band left in the area that traveled to away games,” Parsons said. “... We felt that the funds could be better spent for the program within our own community (playing at home games).”
In Salem, renovations at Bertram Field, the city’s football stadium, have skewed the football schedule. The band and football team will have to play all out-of-town games for the next two months, until the new field is ready. City officials expect Bertram Field to be ready for use by Nov. 1 and plan to host Beverly for the much-anticipated Thanksgiving Day game.
Costa said the Beverly and Salem bands will combine on the field to play the national anthem before the Thanksgiving game.
This summer, Napierkowski launched a fundraising campaign for much-needed new uniforms, as well as drum equipment and instruments for beginner band students in Salem.
After several months of fundraising, Napierkowski said she’s collected more than $14,000 but hopes to reach her goal of $100,000 by February.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.