Mustang Nightriders marching band kicks off new year
By Traci Chapman
Coming back from one of the most successful programs in its history and tackling a new level of marching complexities, Mustang High School Nightriders marching band Saturday brought the heat to an already sweltering day with a performance that showed just how far instrumental music has come across the district.
“After having one of the most successful years in our program’s history last year, it is great to see our students excited about continuing to move forward in our activity with great attitudes and a killer work ethic,” head director Ryan Edgmon said Sunday. “We have almost six minutes of our program on the field already – it’s an accomplishment with a program of this magnitude so early in the year.”
That achievement is not only noteworthy in light of the fact summer band camp only recently wrapped up and school is barely into its second week; Mustang’s program carries with it not only the advantage of size but also its challenges. This year 281 step onto the field in competitive marching band, 64 of them color guard. They are doing so in “Rawr,” its 2019 program distinguished by music by Colton Hines and designed by program coordinator Wes Cartwright.
“Colton composes all aspects of our performance from the drumline, front ensemble, woodwinds, brass and electronics,” Edgmon said. “Every single note you hear on the field comes from him.”
Hines is a longtime Mustang collaborator who historically consulted as audio and electronics specialist and designer with bands across Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Georgia. In addition to high school bands, Hines has worked as electronic designer for The Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps; he also specializes in winter guard soundtracks.
Cartwright’s program designs have earned bands across the country critical acclaim – including Broken Arrow High School’s current streak of 14 consecutive Oklahoma state championships and four Bands of America Grand National championships. He has also consulted for the Tournament of Roses parade, Fiesta Bowl and Holiday Bowl, among others.
While the credentials of those men and the success and dedication of Edgmon and his staff are crucial, in the end it’s very much up to band members, high school students who practice individually and together nearly year-round in both concert and marching band – and as marchers doing so in temperatures topping 100 degrees as the season kicks off to winter chill as that season draws to a close.
“It’s always an inspiration to all of us to see how much these kids are willing to give of themselves,” Edgmon told the audience during Saturday’s performance. “The end result is what you see on the field, and it doesn’t come easily – there’s always a lot more to a program than what you might think, in this case there’s a whole lot going on.”
An ever-expanding number of high school instrumental musicians reflects band program growth throughout the district – from fifth graders on the intermediate to MHS.
“We’re excited to have a program that’s so in demand, from the youngest who start without knowing how to play a note through the seniors who have achieved some truly incredible things,” Edgmon said in the spring. “To watch these young people progress, to work so hard and to interact with our staff the way they do through every grade level is phenomenal.”
Edgmon’s staff includes many longtime directors, most of whom pull double duty between school sites and grade level – Jacob Hofer; Dustin Jussila; Chris Ozinga; Gina Thompson; and Mackenzie Tracy all are part of the marching band team. Belinda Watson serves as Canyon Ridge director and Mustang North Middle School assistant director, while Michael Raiber recently joined the district as Mustang Central Middle School/Meadow Brook Intermediate instrumental music educator.
Daniel Adkisson directs both color and winter guard, last season leading his teams to their most successful in history, while also seeing an explosion in participant numbers.
Saturday’s parent program gave a glimpse of the season to come, which officially begins with the Sept. 28 Yukon Invitational. Nightriders hold their own invitational Oct. 5, during which the band historically gives an exhibition performance; they then head to their first out-of-state competition, the Oct. 12 Birdville Marching Festival – a first-ever appearance there. Nightriders then return to Indianapolis Oct. 26 for Bands of America Super Regional Championships; return to Yukon for OSSAA state marching competition, set for Oct. 29; and end their season Nov. 2 with Oklahoma Bandmasters Association 6A state championships, held this year in Owasso.
Members also traditionally play at Mustang Broncos home – and at least some away – football games throughout the season.
“It’s always a very intense, a very exciting, a very exhausting several weeks that seem to fly by in a flash, but we are all so pumped up about these students, this program and can’t wait to see how it all plays out,” Edgmon said.
Mustang High School’s Nightriders marching band took to the field Saturday for its first performance of the season. Parents, friends and fellow students were the first to see the 2019 program, “Rawr,” which the band will first present in competition during the Sept. 28 Yukon Invitational.