High school bands enjoy friendly rivalry

By Heidy Brosofsky-Weaver
mail@floridanewsline.com

Each year, while the Bartram Trail High School Bears and Creekside Knights fight it out on the football field, the bands battle it out in the stands and during the halftime show, adding an air of excitement to the highly-anticipated game.

Although the schools are long-standing football foes, the rivalry between the two superior-rated bands takes on a different tune.

“We have a friendly rivalry with Bartram. They inspire us to work harder,” said Cecilia Fowler, a Creekside clarinetist.

Bartram trombone player Colin Jeffers agreed.

“There is a feeling of mutual respect and admiration that resonates throughout the marching bands,” he said. “Whatever you do, you are always applauded because they understand the hours of effort and sweat you put into it.”

The friendship between the two directors, Jason Duckett from “The Spirit of Bartram” and Rick Fowler from “The Power of Creekside,” goes back more than 14 years. Before directing the inaugural band at Creekside, Fowler worked at Bartram with Duckett for four years, and the two still collaborate often.

“Rick comes out routinely to help with jazz band, and I’ll help with concert band,” Duckett said. “We’re on the phone a lot bouncing off ideas and giving feedback.”

In addition to supporting each other, both directors work closely with their feeder schools, building bands that are strong in talent from the bottom up. This includes hosting events such as jazz concerts and Eighth Grade Night at football games to generate excitement and create a sense of family.

“We are blessed with solid feeder programs and are in an area where parent support is huge,” said Duckett, whose eighth graders mainly come from Switzerland Point Middle and Liberty Pines Academy.

“We try to make a point of going to see our feeder programs a few times each year during the school day,” said Fowler, who receives students primarily from Fruit Cove Middle and Patriot Oaks Academy.

During the most recent Eighth Grade Night at the Creekside vs. Bartram game, Fruit Cove’s band director, Don Isabelle, watched with pride as more than 500 band members played the National Anthem while the color guard stood at attention.

“A lot of these were my babies. It’s great to be a part of this,” said Isabelle.

Fowler agreed: “Performing the National Anthem is one of my favorite traditions. The importance of this event says something special about our programs.”

Creekside senior Trey Rogers grew up in the band program and recalls his own Eighth Grade Night.

“It allows students to see what it’s like going into the stands to play and move,” Rogers said. “It gives them an idea if they want to commit to band or not.”

He mentored a fellow alto saxophone player, Kenny King from Fruit Cove, who wore a “Future Power of Creekside” band shirt.

“I can’t wait to play in the band next year,” King said.

Many of the middle schoolers described the event as “fun” and “exciting.” However, one student insisted it was “hot and sweaty.” Upon hearing this, a uniform-clad percussionist laughed and said, “You’re in a t-shirt. Try wearing four layers of clothes.”

After the game, the Creekside band gathered for a meeting with Fowler and assistant director Jackson Gilchrist. The band had been at school for 16 hours, showing up at 6:30 a.m. to play spur-of-the-moment for a local TV station’s Game of the Week segment.

“I know it’s been a long day, but congratulations on representing our school well throughout the day and evening,” Fowler complimented his crew. “I greatly appreciate you.”

This sense of appreciation is at the heart of all the bands — appreciation for the strong parental support, band booster programs, student leaders, hard-working musicians, and the opportunity to perform … heat, sweat, and all.

 

Photo courtesy Paul Bryce

The National Anthem was performed by both the Spirit of Bartram and Power of Creekside Bands, along with visiting eighth graders.