By Josette Keelor
Nearly 1,000 students are expected to be at Central High School's first football game of the season on Friday. None of them are football players, but they all plan to flood the field at halftime to perform for a crowd that hasn't seen anything like this at Central High in the last five years.
Five years ago is the last time the James Madison University Marching Royal Dukes performed a halftime show in Woodstock, said Central High's marching band director Sarah Golden.
"They try to go out to a high school each year if they can, and we've just made it into a big thing," she said. In addition to the 485 band members from the university in Harrisonburg, Golden expects another 500 from seven area high schools.
Central will host students from Stonewall Jackson High School in Mount Jackson, Strasburg High School, Sherando High School in Stephens City, Rappahannock County High School, Fort Defiance High School near Staunton and John Champe High School in Aldie, Central's opponent in tonight's game.
The game will start at 7:30 p.m., and the Marching Royal Dukes plan "Dies-Irae," by Giuseppe Verdi, and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," by Billy Joel, for its first two songs during the halftime show, said Connie Driscoll, administrative assistant for the band.
Then high school band members in attendance will run onto the field to join in for a third song, "Get it On," by Bill Chase.
Central's band has 46 members including color guard, said Golden, and "this is actually the largest marching band in the history of the school."
The band practices four nights a week during the school year and daily in August. They started Aug. 5 this year.
Several Central alumni have joined the Marching Royal Dukes, and Golden said the anticipation of performing with university students probably attributed to higher membership this year.
They see what their friends and peers are doing, she said, and "they want to be a part of it."
Last November, the Marching Royal Dukes, under the direction of Director Scott Rikkers, led the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and Driscoll said the band plans to travel to Rome this December to march in a New Year's parade that concludes in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.
The Marching Royal Dukes usually perform one exhibition show a season, but this fall plans a second one at the Bands of America Regional in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
The university hosts the Parade of Champions high school band competition each year, this year on Oct. 18, hosting bands from Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.
Central High School competes in the Parade of Champions each year and in competitions at James Wood High School in Winchester and Herndon High School. Their show this year features music from the 2009 film "Sherlock Holmes," by film composer Hans Zimmer and arranged for band by Matt Mrosko, band director at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School.
Bands from Shenandoah County don't normally perform at away games, but Strasburg's band plans to drive to Central during its own halftime period before returning in by their game's second half, said Director Christopher Szuba.
Golden explained lack of funding in recent years has also cut field trips from Central's budget. She said until recently Peter Muhlenberg Middle School has still sent band members to Kings Dominion amusement park.
"Central has not been able to do that in awhile," Golden said. "We have in the past, but because of funding, we just have not been able to take a trip."
Currently the music boosters at Central High are raising money for school uniforms, "and that's a really huge expense," she said.
On Sept. 13, James Madison University will hold its first Band Day, inviting area high school band members to participate in a halftime show.
"They'll take part in clinics with the band staff, and of course enjoy the football game," Driscoll said. Pre-registration is required, and $20 includes a Band Day T-shirt and lunch during the event. Contact the school at http://www.jmu.edu/mrd.
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org