ROCKINGHAM — If you’ve never heard “The Moonlight Sonata” played by a marching band, this is your year. The sonata’s dreamy, mysterious melody will weave its way throughout the Richmond Raider Band’s halftime show.
From flag line to “pit,” the band’s 60 members have spent four hours a night in rehearsal on eight of the past 11 days. They’ll continue their four hours a night, four days a week for two more weeks to prepare this year’s show, “Phases of the Moon.”
During practice Thursday night, they marched backward and forward across the senior high bus lot, dipping and raising pretend horns, trying to keep their ranks even and their director pleased.
“Get that horn up, Nathan,” director Mike Ward barked from a hill at the side of the lot.
“Good work, Kallie! Keep it up!”
Come the fall sports season, many people pay attention to the football team. They’re the ones on the field for four 15-minute quarters. They’re the ones who take the hits. They’re the ones who make money for the school.
But for those of us who know what it is to march backward holding a 7-pound mellophone at a 45-degree angle while keeping an eye on the folks to both the left and right, it’s the marching band that’s the draw. It’s a “family” thing.
Cameron McDonald knows that. He’s a rising senior with the Raider Band who plays the quints — also called tenor drums — in the drum line. His dad, Jimmy, was in the Raider Band, too.
“I’ve always had a big passion for music,” said Cameron, a rising senior. The fact that his dad played in the same band adds to its attraction.
Clarinetist Nikkita Bowden wants to be a good influence, and the band is her way to do it.
“I started playing in the sixth grade,” she said. (She’s a senior now.) “I’ve enjoyed it ever since. The music helps me express (myself). Maybe one day, a kid might look at me and say, ‘Hey, maybe I could do this, too.’”
The band will travel to Pfafftown for the season opener against Ronald Reagan High School next week. It won’t march, just play peppy music in the stands. And it will attend every game afterward, at home or away.
It also will attend four band competitions, all in North Carolina.
At one competition last year, the band won its class for the first time in eight years, earning a ranking of “excellent.” There is only one classification higher: “superior.”
“Getting a superior … would be a big accomplishment for this group,” Ward said, “but I think it’s in the cards.” Because of its size, the band marches in 3A competitions, while the school’s sports teams are ranked 4A.
The band’s color guard has swept every competition it has entered for the past few years, though. And the drum line has done the same in percussion contests.
“I love ‘em regardless (of awards),” Ward said Thursday. “I have the best students in the world. I’m very blessed.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.