Marching Rangers take lead in fun show

Forest Park High School junior Brianna Perry rehearses during marching band practice at the school in Ferdinand on Wednesday. Marchers helped choreograph the performance this year because ISSMA canceled its competitive season. Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald


It’s like marching, but not.

That’s how Emma Hall described a particularly dancey bit of choreography in the Forest Park Marching Rangers’ 2020 show. The stepping, the squating and the leaning — those movements would normally be meticulously pathed out by a professional.

But this year is different.

This year, those moves were taught to band members by Hall and one of her peers.

“Otherwise, we’d just be standing there doing nothing,” explained Emma, a junior who plays mellophone in the ensemble. “And for a fun show, that’d be kind of boring.”

Forest Park shelved the competitive performance that was originally planned for this year after the Indiana State School Music Association announced the pandemic-related cancellation of its season earlier this summer.

That routine was replaced with something entirely different. Band Director Eric Obermeyer calls it a “fun show,” a 5-minute blast built on pep band charts that is aimed at continuing to provide a creative outlet for marchers, even without the prospect of a state title run.

“It’s driven by the kids,” Obermeyer said of the show. “They get to do the choreography. They voted on the songs ... it was 100% student-selected. That’s why we call it the fun show — it’s just songs that people want to have fun to. And they get to have fun while marching.”

Musical numbers include renditions of “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen, “Teenagers” by My Chemical Romance, “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne and “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.

Sophomore Haley Lorey, the group’s assistant drum major, designed the dance described at the beginning of this story. She spoke of how this year’s show belongs to the band; a student leadership team guided its creation.

“That’s one of the things I found really important,” Obermeyer said. “In order for them to buy into it, if they feel like they have ownership of it, they’re going to take a lot more care of it.”

The Forest Park High School junior Rachel Brown, second from right, rehearses with the color guard at the school in Ferdinand on Tuesday. 

Transitioning from hyper-ambitious goals to a fun show — which will be performed primarily during the halftimes of football games — has not come without challenges for members of the band.

Forest Park hasn’t missed a state finals contest since 2003. And while the Marching Rangers are happy to still have each other, motivation can wane without a championship

in sight.

“It’s very hard coming from such a winning culture,” explained Averie Welp, a senior mellophone player who has been part of the ensemble for six seasons. “And then here, this year, doing it purely for fun, no pressure. We’re so used to the pressure of, ‘Oh, you’re Forest Park. You need to win. You always have to win.’ ”

Still, Averie and other student leaders in the band recognize how important this year is for the band’s future. Half of the 60 Marching Rangers had no marching band experience coming into this season.

“It is so crucial,” Emma said. “I just can’t think about if we would have just stopped instead of doing a whole new show. If we would have just stopped, what would have happened to our band? Would we have fell apart? I don’t know. Because we are one big family who functions the best together, honestly.”

The band is set to debut its fun show at the Forest Park home football game against Tell City on Friday, Sept. 4. In addition to halftime performances, the marchers are also set to perform in a virtual ISSMA event that will be streamed on Saturday, Oct. 3.

In addition to that, a marching band showcase with county bands could take place in the coming months.

“These kids live for this kind of stuff,” Obermeyer said in a message to readers. “They’re in marching band for a reason. And as long as we’re physically allowed to continue to do what we do, there’s nothing that’s going to stop them.”

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