Stepping up to the challenge

Seniors tackle the 2021 marching season in the midst of the pandemic

After seniors spent only two years in marching band along with a year-and-a-half of missed school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no one knew how the marching band would work again. The pandemic made every gathering more limited and introduced more restrictions. 

Additionally, the show, “Another Brick in the Wall,”  an arrangement of Pink Floyd and Dimtri Shostakovich arranged by Jeff Chambers, posed another challenge: the style of the show was different from any of the past several years. 

Aside from that, there were 50 fewer members of the marching band this season.

But in response to the uncertainty, the senior class rose up to the challenge to readjust. Zora Alfredson (12), the mellophone section leader,

Zora Alfredson (12) marches the streets of EL during her final homecoming game. The 2021 was the first homecoming parade in two years.
(Photo by Photo by Alison Alfredson)

noticed the changes after two years of “normal” marching band seasons. 

“It’s definitely very different from my freshman and sophomore years,” Alfredson said. “We have new uniforms, which is a total change because the style is different.”

Alfredson has played the French horn since sixth grade, and has played mellophone in the marching band all four years of high school. But after two years of being an underclassman and being denied a junior season, she noticed that her first year as an upperclassman was very different compared to the first two years.

“Last year, we were the underclassmen, so we kind of had to step up to that,” Alfredson said.

Due to this year-long gap between regular marching band seasons, managing the inexperienced underclassmen has been a crucial bridge to cross for the success of the marching band.

“Two years of freshman makes things very different,” Alfredson said. “But I think we made the best of it.”

Playing proudly, John Ahlin (12) performs the East Lasing Fight song after a second touchdown during East Lansing football’s senior night. His performance during the game was the last time John would play in the ELHS stands for a football game. (Photo by Photo by Donald Keough)

Another senior who played a major role was John Ahlin (12), one of the trumpet section leaders. He showed leadership by leading the eight underclassmen trumpet players and providing prior knowledge to them from his past experience in the program.

The section leader role was tougher when compared to previous years, as the trumpet section didn’t have any squad leaders, who usually would have assisted the guidance by the section leaders.

Ahlin’s success in the role as a leader developed while serving this position through his work ethic. 

“By working hard at rehearsal and practicing consistently, I think I do a pretty good job leading by example,” Ahlin said. 

Wes Millhouse (12), the snare drum section leader, also faced adversity with the added weight of leading the underclassmen. Because the freshmen and sophomores were brand new to the program, the season was “a bit of a mess” due to the lack of experience from half of the band.

However, throughout the pandemic, Millhouse himself matured as a player because he had more time to practice and felt challenged to improve during the pandemic.

“I came back and was much better than before,” Millhouse said. “I had more time to sit with stuff. I felt more like a leader.”

The pandemic posed a lot of uncertainty in many different ways. But when it came to the marching band, the senior class was able to fill their roles as leaders, and conduct a meaningful final marching band season. 

“I’m really happy with the season,” said Ahiln. “We’ve had a ton of fun, and gotten a lot out of it.”