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West Deptford Marching Band Focuses for Fall Season

The Eagles will defend two straight Atlantic Coast Championships titles when they take the field this year.

From hours under the broiling summer sun next to Oakview Elementary to a week apart from the rest of the world at band camp last month to nights scrambling around the practice field beside the football stadium, the members of the marching band are headed into another fall intent on the best.

They’ve labored hours on drill and music for better than a month already, hammering away at the foundation of the show and getting the details down well ahead of their first performances.

“We’re very focused on everything we do, we don’t just let things pass by,” drum major Jackie Wallowitch said. “We took hours at band camp just to learn how to even jazz walk.”

Not to mention how to waltz, and how to perfect all the basics of swirling around a football field while performing at the top of their game.

“We don’t have a practice where we don’t learn anything,” Wallowitch said.

It’s no easy task, especially with the turnover this year—the band lost a large senior class heading into this fall, but the freshmen who have stepped in to the 68-member ensemble are pulling their weight, Wallowitch said.

Given the gap in experience, that’s particularly impressive, assistant band director and drill design Al Dirkes said.

“We keep writing higher and higher and expecting more things, and they have yet to not rise to the occasion,” he said.

Part of that may come from the week of band camp, which assistant drum major Hannah Dunn said pulls the ensemble together as a family.

“All day, you’re relying on each other,” she said. “We build a lot of really close relationships with each other that way.”

That trust and tightness pays off when they step on the field to perform, Dunn said.

This year’s show is a strictly classical affair, blending Beethoven and Mozart in a four-part performance, including one section that layers the two composers’ work.

“It’s the most emotional show yet,” Wallowitch said. “You just feel the music—it’s amazing to be standing on the podium conducting it.”

But, as Wallowitch said, it’s not just about the music—from the band’s waltz in the third section to the performance of the color guard, which this year adds sabers and rifles to the bag of tricks, it’s the total package that matters.

Those spinning flags and flying rifles are more than just stage dressing, Dunn said.

“The visuals can really contribute to the show,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing people don’t always realize.”

With just days until their first performance and just a couple of weeks before the start of competition, the show is progressing, and Dunn said whether you’re a first-year member of the color guard or a veteran drum line member, the key will be self-confidence.

“Your first performance is normally your scariest one and your most exciting one,” she said.

And, of course, there are those titles to defend— and .

“We know that everyone wants to beat us this year,” Wallowitch said. “We have to do even better, because people are working as hard as they can to get over us.”

Though reaching the pinnacle again is certainly one of the band’s aims, Dunn said it’s not the only successful outcome for the year.

“I have equally great memories of the seasons that we didn’t win,” she said.

Creating another memorable season, especially for her fellow seniors, is a major goal, Dunn said.

“If we do that, I think we’ll do great,” she said.

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