The Grain Valley High School Marching Eagles (GVME) met for a mini camp the last week of the school year, practicing to perform together as one unit for the first time in over a year. The pandemic canceled much of their 2020-21 season, with staff scrapping their original show, splitting up the band into wind instrument and percussion/color guard units, and recreating two separate shows to meet social distancing requirements. Other than presenting these separate shows for parents and recording performances for virtual programs, the band has not had the opportunity to perform together or travel in over a year. Travis Barzee, Director of Bands for Grain Valley Schools, said the excitement among students and staff is palpable.
“We are most excited to be back together at all in any capacity to make music! Last year we never had the opportunity to get the full band together, so for over 50% of the ensemble, this year will be their first experience surrounded by a full marching band and all of the cultures and traditions that coincide with being together,” Barzee said.
Each year, the Marching Eagles selects a theme for their productions, and this year’s production is titled “Chances Are…”.
The theme “is centered around the idea of possibility. There are weather implications, so you will hear and see different earthly elements represented by vibrant colors from the band, color guard, and props. All music selections are centered around "chance" in some unique way. We're excited to get to work on it,” Barzee said.
Members of the Marching Eagles will begin work in June in a series of sectional camps before starting full band camp in mid-July. Student musicians spend several weeks in full day rehearsals at the high school preparing the show for a season of competitions and home football game performances.
Before camp can even begin, there is a cadre of staff, students, and parents doing prep work to make sure camp days run smoothly.
“Oh man...these students are such incredibly hard workers. It's still fascinating to me to see teenagers display such grit and determination. Our Student Leader team is made up of just over 30 students and will spend dozens of hours printing music, moving equipment into the new wing, creating music folders for the entire band, team building exercises, and so much more. They, along with the Band Parents Association and my tenacious colleagues, are the true heroes of a thriving band program. It takes a village,” Barzee said.
The band will once again be able to perform under the Friday nights of the football field after not being able to perform at games last year. These performances are just a part of the band’s schedule for the season.
“We are so excited to get to perform at five home football games, in addition to four competitions,” Barzee said.
The band will travel to Blue Springs South High School, Blue Springs Golden Regiment Invitational ("GRI"), Bands of America at Iowa, and finishing off at the Bands of America Super Regional at the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis.
The band program has also welcomed a new staff member to its ranks.
Casey VanBiber has joined Grain Valley band staff as an assistant director, serving as a brass specialist with the Marching Eagles, and teaching at South Middle School and North Middle School.
VanBiber is a Blue Springs native, growing up in the Blue Springs School District and graduating from Blue Springs High School in 2003. VanBiber attended Missouri State University, earning his bachelor's degree in Music Education. While at Missouri State University, VanBiber was principal euphonium in the wind ensemble, a member of the jazz band, a drum major with the Missouri State Pride Marching Band, and was a marching member in the euphonium section with the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps.
VanBiber has 13 years of teaching experience, serving as an assistant director at Blue Springs South High School, director of bands at Moreland Ridge Middle School, and most recently, director of bands at Delta Woods Middle School.
For more information on the Grain Valley Marching Eagles and the band program, visit www.gvbands.org.