Forecast calls for Thunder in the Valley
NHS marching band hosting annual competition
NAUGATUCK — Let the thunder roll.
The Naugatuck High School marching band will host its annual Thunder in the Valley competition beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday. The competition will be held on the school’s new turf field, which was renovated over the summer.
Band Director Robert Hughes said the team is anxiously awaiting the chance to get onto the new field.
“The students are very excited. The staff is very excited. It’s going to be a great facility and it’s going to be a great place for us to rehearse,” Hughes said.
Since the ongoing renovations have kept the band off its home turf rehearsals have been held at City Hill Middle School.
“It’s certainly not as convenient. We don’t have a home base. We have to move equipment back and forth often,” Hughes said.
Hughes also had to make some minor adjustments to the field at City Hill in order to make sure the band was practicing on a space that would mimic what they will encounter during the competition.
“We redid the front sideline because the distance from the sideline to the hash was off, which doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but when we are doing drills and following the gridline suddenly they are closer together than they should be and the forms aren’t looking quite right,” Hughes said.
Senior and drummer Nicole Lopes said practicing at City Hill took some getting used to, but the band has been working hard to overcome the problems.
“This parking lot is on a slight hill so it’s been a lot of adjusting. But I think we’ve been getting a lot done and doing really good,” Lopes said.
Despite the difficulties of practicing at a new location, Hughes is pleased with how well the band has been progressing this year.
“The students are a lot more focused this year. We’ve been having more success more quickly. I think that is largely because we’ve got a really dedicated staff and because the students are really attentive and they want to learn,” Hughes said.
Senior and drummer Dylan Carlson is pleased everyone is giving it their all in his final year.
“I’m really happy we’ve all been working this hard to exceed our overall potential,” Carlson said.
While the band has not had a chance to practice on the new turf, they will have one chance before the competition to get the feel of their new home field. The band will be performing during the football game Friday night.
“I’m very excited because for my last home show ever I get to march on new turf. It just feels amazing to be there for everyone to see how great the field has turned out and how great we’ve turned out,” Carlson said.
Senior and drummer Sean Main is confident the band will perform well regardless of where they’ve practiced.
“We haven’t had a chance to march on the field. It’s just something we’ve got to deal with. But once we get on the field we’ll get right back to it,” Main said.
Steve Klepner, the band’s brass caption head, echoed Main’s sentiments.
“They’ll be fine. They are trained in a way that allows them to perform anywhere. It’s just like going from one place to another. As long as there are lines there we’ll be fine,” Klepner said.
One factor the band has on its side heading into the competition is consistency.
Hughes said the band has not changed its routine much since he took over three years ago. This has helped the students get back into step with their routines quicker each year.
“This year we’ve just been able to pick up and go because all the students know the standard routine. They know what their expectations are. They’re there, they do it, they’re consistent, and it has allowed us to have a lot of success,” Hughes said.
In addition to being the band’s only home competition, Thunder in the Valley is also the largest fundraiser for the program.
The competition will feature eight local bands, including Naugatuck High. The bands will be judged for their musical talent as well as the visual aspects of their show, which includes marching in straight lines and timing. The event will also feature a performance by the University of New Haven marching band. Tickets can be purchased at the gate and are $10 for adults and $7 for children.
The money raised this year will help the students travel to France to perform at Louise Michel High School in Gisors, Normandy. In April music students from Louise Michel High School traveled to Naugatuck as part of a student exchange program.
“I’m really excited to raise a lot of money because it will help us towards going to France. I really hope it’s going to be a great turnout,” Lopes said.
Despite not practicing on their new home turf, Hughes has a good feeling the band will be up for the task come Saturday.
“I certainly wish we had more time to prepare on our home field for our home show, but regardless I think the students will deliver and put on a fabulous performance,” Hughes said.