FHC Marching Band has cultivated a welcoming and accepting community


Marching band during the halftime show- L.Hampton Photography

Melodious symphonies meticulously cultivated and played to perfection. In the strive for perfection, many students find their community in the FHC Marching Band. Students form life-long bonds and friendships through the many hours spent practicing and playing. One of these students is senior Ellie McDowell, drum major and clarinet player in the band.

Ellie has been involved in band since the sixth grade; after discovering her affinity for music, she continued in marching band and has since grown in talent. However, she didn’t gain skills without hard work to contribute to her success. 

“The thing about band is that you get a brief representation of the effort you’re putting into it,” Ellie said. “So if you put in a lot of effort, you’ll sound great, and if you put in no effort, you’ll sound bad. It’s super cool to be able to see that progress and to know you’re putting a lot of effort in and that it pays off.”

During marching season, the band practices two days a week to refine their skills and prepare for games along with the band elective. In addition to these practices, drum line members also spend a zero hour in the morning rehearsing. 

The extra hour in the morning helps them bond as they spend so much time together. Junior Lilian Krug is a part of the drumline and finds that the additional time improves their team dynamic.

“We have practice and a zero-hour,” Lilian said. “We’re closer because we spend more time together, and we do the fifth quarter, which is a fun addition to the halftime show at the end of the game.”

All of these formed friendships and acquired skills wouldn’t be possible without band teacher Laura Zilhaver. She guides the band through classes and practices after schools, and band would not be possible without her. 

If you put in a lot of effort, you’ll sound great, and if you put in no effort, you’ll sound bad.

— Ellie McDowell

Zilhaver teaches both middle school and high school band and gets to watch students grow in ability over the span of multiple years.

“My favorite part about teaching band is seeing kids grow over time,” Zilhaver said. “It is one of those classes you teach over the course of several years. I have the opportunity to see kids when they’re middle schoolers all the way through senior year and the things that would frustrate them as younger kids and then now see them overcome those same struggles and master them. It brings me a lot of joy.”

Despite the musical aspect of the band being the initial factor that makes people join, most students stay because of the community surrounding band. It offers shared experiences and forged bonds through the common interest in music.

“Ever since I was younger, I always wanted to be in drum line,” Lillian said. “I saw [the drum line] in Bandtasia and thought it looked really fun. I found a lot of friends through band, and every year there’s different music and new people to play with.”

The unique opportunities offered in band and the lifelong friendships and skills learned are just aspects of the overall effect band has on FHC and the people in and out of band.

Like Lilian, Ellie also found a sense of community through band and has found most of her friends from band class or other friends of people in band.

“Since high school started, the community has grown a lot stronger,” Ellie said. “Marching band has brought us all together, and I like the way I have friends and people who have my back no matter what.”

The friendships, community, and effort put in are all displayed and proudly shown every time they play, and what they have accomplished through their weeks of practice is truly exceptional. Band benefits social and mental abilities when playing, memorizing, and socializing with fellow players. 

“I think band is an experience where kids gain social benefits and make long-term friendships with people outside their grades,” Zilhaver said. “Music is just one of those things that I think is an important part of society and of who we are, and for people to be a part of that is really cool.”

Many essential life skills are learned in band and musical extracurriculars. It offers an insight into the dedication and discipline needed to accomplish things in life. Working hard and perseverance are of the utmost importance in the real world, and band provides a place and community to foster those skills.

“Playing an instrument is like taking your brain to the gym,” Zilhaver said, “Because your whole brain lights up when you’re playing an instrument, and you’re engaging every part of your brain. It teaches you important life skills: anything worth doing in life takes time. It takes discipline and it’s a labor of love, and being a musician takes years to develop. For example, how long does it take you to raise a family? A long time. How long does it take you to start a business? A long time. It takes daily discipline to achieve those goals, and when you’re doing that as a musician, you’re preparing yourself for that in the future.”