OGDEN -- This year, they beat the curse.
For the first time in five years the Ogden High School marching band beat what they call the "Curse of St. George" when members recently brought home top honors from the St. George Red Rocks Invitational State Finals, the equivalent of a state championship. The band now joins the ranks of the school's other state champions this fall -- boy's cross country and girl's soccer.
"We've been doing that all year," band instructor Robert Gillette said of his band and the wins. They took first place in five out of six competitions this year and he credits some adversity to the team's success. Awards are given in different areas at each competition and some areas won in every competition all year.
Early in the season the band went from 60-plus members to 45, dropping them two flights, or rankings, from Flight 3 to Flight 1. Flights are based on the number of students in the band. After the students dropped out, the band had to re-configure its formations for the show and the color guard had to re-vamp many of its arrangements as well.
"We got to a point where we were saying, 'Who's going to quit this week?' " drum major and senior Andrew Alsup said. While it was difficult at first, Alsup thinks the reduction in size made the band much better.
"Once we got the quitters out of the way we were dedicated and we could do what we wanted to do," Alsup said.
He also enjoyed the smaller band because the band bonded together better and as a drum major he got to know each and every member of the band. During the height of band season band members spent about 15 to 20 hours per week practicing as a band and many students practice on their own outside of official practice, Alsup said.
Many don't mind that because it's time spent with friends, the best benefit to being in the band, according to Alsup.
Color guard captain Kristina Widerburg said it was a struggle when losing color guard and band members, but the groups pulled through.
"We just had to work together," Widerburg said. The color guard won all its competitions this year.
Gillette said it's hard to find students who want to devote the time and the endurance it takes to play in a top band. He doesn't feel like the time commitment is an issue, just the commitment in general. He also thinks that once some students dropped out, those still in the band proved their dedication. He also credits parents and the community for much of the band's success.
"Without the parents, marching band would not be possible," he said. A core group of parents devotes their Saturdays to driving students to competitions, making food and preparing props. One mom sews the costumes for the color guard and other parents are constantly mending the band attire.
Widerburg said the color guard won't continue this winter because of lack of funding. It costs each girl about $215 to compete this winter and the funds just aren't there. Last year the drum line and winter guard took top honors all season.
Gillette attributes the band's continued success partially to tradition as well. He is now teaching students who are younger siblings of students he taught previously. The students come ready to work and want to win, he said.