NAUGATUCK — Let the Thunder roll.
Thunder in the Valley, an annual marching band competition hosted by Naugatuck High School, will take place later this month and the NHS band is getting ready to rock.
Jordan Byron, a member of the marching band’s staff, shouted out directions in the parking lot of the school on a hot, bright morning last Thursday.
“Since we are moving at a slower pace, our horns go up slower, right? No, that is completely incorrect,” Byron told the band.
Throughout the morning, Byron demonstrated the proper way for band members to step sideways, hold their shoulders, and snap their feet together when coming to a stop.
“We are working on the little intricacies, such as how feet are placed,” Byron said during a water break. “We’re making sure everyone is using the same technique and we are all one cohesive unit.”
The band spent all of last week practicing during band camp. For some band members, the time was spent getting used to a new instrument.
Sophomore Kaylin Spaulding played the baritone saxophone in last year’s competition. This year, however, she’s playing the tuba.
“I’m a little nervous marching with a tuba, but you gotta do what you gotta do,” Spaulding said.
Band Director Robert Hughes took over the marching band two years ago. Since then, the band has gained more attention and a steady stream of new members.
When Hughes first started, the band had a little over 50 students, last year that number grew to over 60 students, and this year a little more than 70 students are in the band. Hughes hopes that by next year the band will be a Class Four, which would mean more than 75 students.
Among the band’s new members is freshman trumpet player Devon Jones, who has been playing the trumpet for four years and has participated in the drum corps before.
Jones said that he was looking forward to participating in Thunder in the Valley because he’s heard it’s a fun experience.
Senior trumpet player Felicia Gullotta can attest to the competition’s draw.
“It’s a great experience. It’s nice to be able to host the competition,” Gullotta said. “Other bands come here so you get to show off and say this is what we do.”
As the band practiced its footwork and ran through all the small details, everyone tried hard to step in time. They marched forward, backwards, sideways, and in place as Hughes kept time on a plastic bell.
“This year seems like it is going to be amazing,” Gullotta said. “Everyone is committed to putting in hard word. The outcome is going to be fantastic.”
Although she would be marching with a tuba for the first time, Spaulding also felt that this competition was going to be a good one for the band.
“I’m looking forward to having a good time and making it better than last year,” Spaulding said. “Everyone is very dedicated. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”
While Hughes is working to make sure the band is ready to put their best effort forward at the competition, he knows that the experiences of being part of the marching band go beyond just one day.
“What the kids do here, they learn just as much in extracurricular activities as they do in regular class,” Hughes said. “They are learning life skills.”
This will be the last home competition for seniors like Gullotta and, for her part, she wants to make sure it is memorable.
“I want to leave an impression, make people say that was the Class of 2013,” Gullotta said. “I want to do something future students will want to achieve and to aspire to be us.”
Thunder in the Valley is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Naugatuck High School. Ten other bands from around the state are expected to participate in the competition, which is also the NHS marching band’s biggest fundraiser of the year.