The Marching Woodmen
Greenwood Band Directors Reflect On State Championship Season
Writer / Megan Jefferson
Greenwood’s marching band has a history of success. The students have made it to the state level competition 40 times since its inception in the 1970s. They’ve won 14 times. Band Director, John Morse, and Assistant Director, Steven Fletcher have been leading The Marching Woodmen at Greenwood High School for 11 and 10 years respectively.
Morse says that when he was younger, like a lot of kids, he tried out many different activities. Playing instruments was something he was good at and made him happy. He decided to pursue music education at Ball State University so he could teach kids music.
“I think there’s a lot of aspects of music that help kids later in life whether they continue with it or not,” Morse says. “Hard work, commitment, teamwork, leadership skills, agreeing on a common goal and working towards it as a group, all of these aspects really benefit kids in the long run.”
Fletcher spent the first 15 years of his career working with many alumni from Greenwood, as a group, they would go to different schools and assist band directors. He gained invaluable experience and learned how things are done. When the Assistant Band Director opportunity became available at Greenwood High School, it felt like it was meant to be.
Starting in June, the 163 band members practice for two weeks and then get a month off. They’re at it again, practicing daily in mid-July through November. They practice in the hot sun. They practice every day after school from 2:45 – 4:40 p.m. When competition season starts, the students continue their rigorous practice schedule and compete every Saturday, spending 12-14 hours traveling and performing.
Practice involves perfecting their program and learning many songs. In the case of this year’s show, the students had to incorporate characterization movements of Charlie Chaplin.
Months spent marching in the hot sun and practicing nearly every day paid off. Greenwood High School won the state championship title for the 40th time.
This year’s band show was titled, Charlie. Music was played from Charlie Chaplin’s movie, “Modern Times.” The band also wove in some era music, such as The Entertainer, written by Scott Joplin. Eleven students dressed up like Chaplin and all the performers got into character at times — this helped make the performance exceptional.
“One thing that made this show so successful is the amount of responsibility that it put in the hands of the kids,” Fletcher says. “They all portrayed the character of Charlie and they just ate it up. It was so fun to watch, it’s amazing what the kids did with it.”
Fletcher says that they always start out the season hoping for the best. They plan and work hard and in the end it’s up to the kids, they are the ones that sell the show.
“You prepare the best you can and really you’re mostly competing with yourself. You are judged on a rubric,” Morse says. “The judges use their experience and the rubric to come up with scores, but at the end of the day, it’s very subjective.”
Morse explained that his favorite part of his job is the daily interactions with his students. He says seeing them do well competitively is icing on the cake. Watching them learn, grow, persevere through adversity and rise to the challenge has been rewarding for him.
“Our band members have to be good performers and on top of that they work with other students that need things outside of band,” he says. “Whether it’s help academically or socially or just a ride to and from rehearsal, they really give a lot.”
Greenwood residents are proud of all student groups including the marching band. The championship win has been an exciting victory for the community to celebrate. Both Fletcher and Morse are appreciative of the support.
“This would not be possible without the huge backing of the alumni, community and band parents,” Fletcher says. “We just couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Marching band season is over, but it actually gets even busier for the band directors at this point. There are two concert bands, two jazz bands, a basketball prep band, a winter percussion ensemble and three winter guards. They’re all preparing for different upcoming performances. You can visit ghsband.org to learn more about school concerts.