Dana Hills has been buzzing with the news of Marching Band’s winning streak for the past month. Completely undefeated, band is making Dolphin history this season. Currently seated as first in the division final competition, their last show will be this Saturday, Nov. 23, where they will have the chance to win the “CIF of band if you will,” as said by band director James Caestecker.
The official season began in the first week of October, and since then, they have won competitions at Capo Valley high school, San Clemente High School, and Centennial High School. This Saturday’s competition will be in Newport, and decides whether they get to compete in the open class competition, which puts the best of all size divisions against each other.
This success is not surprising, given that members of marching band spend roughly 10 hours practicing each week. Before the school year begins, this time becomes 40 hours a week, practicing from 9 AM to 5 PM in summer marching band camp at Dana. Many of his students see band as their home on campus. The amount of time they spend together is a “testament to their work ethic and endurance that they get together every week and improve … That kind of progress is unusual for a lot of groups.”
Caestecker believes the progress stems from “really talented musicians that stepped up this year, especially drum leaders Liam Adcock and Jennifer Maitino who are the two point people making the show possible.” As it is his second year here, Caestecker and the rest of the band got the chance to plan, select music, and design the show during summer with much more thought than before. He also had the opportunity this time around to go through a very selective process when choosing leaders, ensuring a strong and organized team. Caestecker was also particularly proud of the annually created custom show, which was more focused on tailoring to the specific individuals and maximizing their skills.
Jennifer Maitino attributes the wins to the smaller group this year, since it left “the most dedicated people to the program in it. We had the chance to get a lot closer like a family.” With fewer members, Maitino noticed how accelerated learning can be. She explained that in a group of 80 people, it is easier for less knowledgeable or struggling students to be paid less attention to, but in a group of 40, those people don’t get left behind. Not only did being in band improve her time in high school, but Maitino believes it will help her future, teaching her accountability through the time constraints and leadership in her new role this year. Her experience has also helped inspire her hopes of becoming a music teacher.
Ultimately, Caestecker notes that what sets this team apart is “less of what [he does] for the group and more of what the students do for each other.” Despite the lack of losses, there were stressful times throughout this season. What began as a large gap between first and second is now close to a tenth of a point, but every week marching band works to “push the bar even higher.” A lasting value from this season, as described by Mr. Caestecker, is “not from a particular hard win, but that every week [they] get a little better and learn to push through just being busy people or having a bad rehearsal now and then in order to make a name for [them]selves.”
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