With a year under his belt as Elizabethtown High School’s marching band director, Tyler Cantrell is entering his second year focusing on improving student motivation.
“When I first came in, there seemed to be kind of this idea that they went into it thinking, ‘I can’t do this.’ And this year, there has already been more of, ‘Yeah, let’s do this,’” he said.
Students are going to be expected to do more this year, Cantrell said.
“The level of the music is harder. The level of the drill is harder. And so it’s just a higher expectation,” he said.
The band is participating in the Mid-States Band Association circuit as a 3A school, Cantrell said, competing against schools from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Last year, they competed as a 2A school.
Among those expected to perform at a high level is a front ensemble made up almost entirely of eighth-graders. One of those eighth-graders is Mikhi McGee, a T.K. Stone Middle School student who plays the gong, bass drum, chimes, suspended cymbal and triangle. McGee no longer is phased by the responsibility of playing several instruments.
“At first, it was overwhelming, but now it’s easy to do,” he said.
This band’s performance this year is called “From the Deep,” which Cantrell described as a journey from the depths of the ocean to the surface. On Thursday, the band was rehearsing the first movement of the performance, which it performed Saturday at Eastern High School in Louisville.
“It’s kind of intense music. It’s in a minor key. It’s a little bit more dark in nature,” he said. The next two movements include a ballad centered around time in a coral reef and finish in “open water.”
Griffin Dane, a senior who plays the baritone saxophone, has noticed a culture change since Cantrell took over. The E’town student has been in the marching band all four years.
“We feel a lot more comfortable with how Mr. Cantrell runs things,” he said.
Dane likened being a marching band member as part of something bigger.
“We’re all like this big family. I trust just about everyone here and we work together to achieve something that we feel is an amazing achievement,” he said.