Pulling off an event as high profile and widely attended as the Salt Bowl is no easy task, but when both sides work together as a team, the result is the best high school football game and halftime show in the state.
“Marching band is all about team effort, and every single student plays a vital role in the performance,” says Tricia Moffett, Director of Bands at Benton High School. “My students love the opportunity to come together and work on a joint marching show.”
“Many of our students already know each other, so it’s a great opportunity getting to perform on such a big “stage” with their friends,” adds Bryant’s Director of Bands – Head High School Director, Keith Matthews.
A few years ago the Benton and Bryant bands decided to combine efforts to deliver a massive musical sound and show for over 30,000 Salt Bowl spectators. “When the game moved from the fourth game of the season to the first, I believe that Tricia and I decided we didn’t want to perform our competition shows because they wouldn’t quite be ready for the public to see. Also combining the bands saves roughly 20 minutes of halftime,” recalls Matthews.
This year’s show features a music compilation from a well-known artist whose songs are remembered and enjoyed by adults and students alike. (Hint: the artist is from Long Island, New York and was a successful amateur boxer before getting into the music business. He has played piano greats including Liberace and Jerry Lee Lewis!)
The 2017 Salt Bowl combined band performance includes 311 musicians and 46 flag line and color guards members who put in extra hours of practice over the summer to make it all come together. “Because this is an additional show to our regular competition show practice, time is very limited. We spend 3-4 hours learning the music and 1-2 rehearsals staging everything. We only get one rehearsal with both bands on the field together, and that is the afternoon of the Salt Bowl on War Memorial field,” says Moffett.
Although the bands only rehearse together for roughly an hour on the day of the Salt Bowl, Benton and Bryant band members have the opportunity to see each other and develop relationships throughout the year. “The Benton and Bryant bands interact with each throughout the entire school year in marching competitions, concert band competitions, and regional band events. All of the directors are friends, and we routinely help each other out,” says Matthews.
According to Matthews, many hours go into learning the special music and color guard routines during individual band practice, and the process for music selection begins months before the Salt Bowl. “Tricia and I begin emailing each other at the end of the previous year and during the summer passing ideas back and forth to decide on musical pieces that the large crowd would enjoy.”
Benton and Bryant each have three drum majors, all sharing the responsibility of conducting the pieces, but the most experienced drum major takes the lead on the center podium the night of the performance.
“Both bands put all of their drum majors in front of the mass band. The head drum majors share the responsibility of leading the group,” explains Matthews.
Both the Benton and Bryant bands are accomplished in their own right garnering accolades for marching and concert performance.
But Moffett and Matthew agree that combining the bands for this once a year Saline County event creates a spirit of unity that is hard to beat. “By bringing the two bands together, I think we reflect a uniting of the two communities rather than a rivalry and I believe that much more accurately reflects what living in the Benton and Bryant area is like.”