Jeeps march toward winter contests

Allen Laman/The Herald
Sabrina Dunning, drum major of the Northeast Dubois Marching Jeeps, conducts at a practice at Northeast Dubois Junior-Senior High School on Friday.


DUBOIS — "You are Enough."

Picked as the title and theme of the Northeast Dubois Marching Jeeps’ 2020 show before the novel coronavirus began its spread across the United States, that phrase has guided the 20-member ensemble as it steps through a modified season without invitationals and contests.

Required quarantines have disrupted practices and the chance at a state title has been taken away from Dubois County’s smallest marching band.

But this year’s group won’t disband in October. The marchers are set to reconvene in mid-November to continue adding to their show before unveiling it at a competitive indoor season in early 2021.

“This is an opportunity for them to continue to have a marching band season,” said Band Director David Fox. “For my veterans. I only have one senior, but for him, he gets his marching season. And that’s an important thing to me.”

Fox — who is now in his eighth year with the program — explained that the music and movements of the routine represent serious topics like failure, anxiety and depression. Sophomore Clayton Stemle, the group’s lone color guard member, scales an intricately painted mountain prop with a flag during the performance to visualize the theme of struggle.

“We’re still doing a performance show, we’re still doing the same type of music, the same performance-caliber show,” Fox said. “We didn’t dial down the quality or the content of what we’re doing. So, in terms of that stuff, we kept it the same. Just the difference has really been performance opportunities.”

Had COVID-19 not prompted the cancellation of the Indiana State School Music Association’s marching band circuit, the Marching Jeeps would be fine-tuning their routine with the hopes of making their fifth consecutive appearance at the ISSMA Scholastic Class finals in Indianapolis later this month.

The kids are instead still learning their show; they’re currently about 2 minutes through what will be a roughly 5 1/2 minute performance when they compete through the Indiana Percussion Association circuit in February and March. Fox explained that the cancellation of ISSMA events has allowed the group to choose meaningful music that highlights the themes of difficulty and overcoming.

“It’s going to be a very well thought out show from beginning to end,” Fox said, "with some music that’s really effective in what it’s trying to communicate.”

Clayton knows that many schools across the country canceled their marching seasons outright, and he said he is “really grateful” to be able to perform with the band this year. The activity is his escape from school, and he’s looking forward to the upcoming indoor season.

He’s also proud to be part of a program that is shining a light on real issues in its own, special way.

“Whenever we got the theme for the show, I was so happy,” Clayton recalled. “Because I would just dance around in my room during my free time, and it would be really expressive, or like really sad songs.”

He continued: “It was kind of a way for me to take that emotion and associate it with something happy, rather than something stressful like school or a job.”

Sabrina Dunning, the Marching Jeeps’ drum major, said coronavirus-related precautions have made it more difficult for members to build connections with each other. But she said the season has still been a good one, and she’s thankful the Marching Jeeps were able to come together to have a season at all.

“I’m going to look back on it and think that was a really special year,” she said. “Because while we still had our obstacles, of course, from the coronavirus, it was still an opportunity to grow.”

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