Kennewick High School students overcome hurdles for Cavalcade of Bands competition

Tri-City Herald

Kennewick High School’s marching band was not in an ideal position in August, just two months before it would play host to the 34th annual Cavalcade of Bands at Lampson Stadium.

The school’s band director left for another job late in the summer and newcomer Jonathan Miller hadn’t started until just before classes began.

And while the band had a preliminary plan for what it would perform at Cavalcade, Miller decided to go a different direction, requiring new music and marching drill sets.

“The older members keep asking me when we’re getting the music, when we’re getting the drill,” said drum major Caitlin Pyke, 16, a junior.

But neither Miller nor Caitlin, nor her fellow drum major, sophomore Emily Castañeda, are sweating it, they said.

Miller doesn’t deny they are cutting it close, with less than the usual time to practice and waiting for materials. It all comes down to how you respond to the challenge, he said.

“We’ve tried to be really smart with what we do, with the music we choose,” he said. “The kids get it.”

Cavalcade began in 1981 as a joint effort between the band directors of Pasco and Kennewick high schools. It was at first held exclusively at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco until renovations there in the late ’90s moved it to Lampson, and the two stadiums have traded off holding the event ever since.

This year’s event will feature 20 bands from the Mid-Columbia and Yakima Valley as well as Spokane and Idaho, chairwoman Reba Berry said.

Miller, who must recently taught at Curtis High School in University Place, attended Cavalcade when he was a student at a Spokane-area high school.

And when he was interviewed for his position at Kennewick High this summer, Berry reminded him that this year’s event was only weeks away and that it was Kennewick’s turn to act as host.

“I knew what I was walking into,” Miller said. “When I had my interview, I went and looked at a house just in case. I moved in less than a week.”

Kennewick High’s 50-member band still lost about 30 to 40 hours of effective practice time, primarily when it would have had band camp in August, because of Miller’s late hire. That’s about how much practice time Pasco’s two high school bands lost during the teachers strike that stretched from Sept. 1 to Sept. 15, he said.

Miller also introduced the theme “From The Earth To The Moon” for the band’s performance, requiring him to order the three pieces of music as well as diagrams for the marching formations.

It’s been stressful at times, Emily and Caitlin said, particularly for upperclassmen who are used to having more time. But there’s some benefits to the situation as well, such as the band taking more time to learn the nuances of each piece of music, rather than going over them just enough in camp to be proficient.

“Half of me is excited, half of me is nervous because I don’t want to mess up,” Emily said. “But it’s part of the game.”

The band performed with a few others during a showcase last weekend at Chiawana High School, and Miller said that while the band wasn’t completely prepared, it performed well.

Berry has seen the band perform recently and is pleased with where Miller has taken it, although the first couple of weeks were tense with his absence and the changes he made, she said.

“We’re excited, we wanted this to be his band,” she said.

The band’s performance at Cavalcade likely won’t be perfect, Miller said, adding that it would be a challenge to prepare for any event so early in the fall. But he and the students have worked hard nonetheless because it is on their home turf.

“We want to make sure we’re ready and look good,” he said.

Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver