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TERRE HAUTE - "It's kind of hard to think of something to say, because I know you guys are bummed, but I honestly feel like you guys need to reflect on how you felt after your performance, OK?" Brett Mulzer told the Tell City High School Marching Marksmen after they earned a gold rating but failed to secure a top-five slot at district competition Saturday.
Of the 17 bands competing in Indiana State School Music Association Class D, 12 earned the top "gold" rating, but only the top five Forest Park, Mater Dei, North Posey, Paoli and Springs Valley earned the right to advance to statewide competition at the RCA Dome this weekend.
"I'm not just trying to make it positive," the assistant band director continued, "I think you finally felt what it was like to gel together today. We needed that all season, and I think it'll be a good thing for the future, concert band, everything, if you use that feeling, understand? I'm not trying to just move on; but that's really what I want you guys to learn, how to get that feeling."
Mulzer and Director Barry Reasoner were addressing their students in an ISU parking lot. Before they marched onto the field, Reasoner added, "something kind of went through my mind the fact that every single one of us knows that every single one of you deserves to make it to a state contest. The unfortunate part is that the judges are the ones that say who earned it. We know you deserved it. We believed in you and you believed in us, and everybody believed in the show, so the only thing I can say is you have to feel good about those things."
The teachers, students and parents boarded vehicles for a short drive to a restaurant not far from the football field where they competed. After allowing time for plates, then bellies, to be filled, Mulzer addressed the group again. He told the students they placed 10th, but said the scores were so tight they shouldn't worry about that.
"You have nothing to really be down about," he said. "I know it's a bummer and you're allowed to be upset. The grieving period will last quite a while, but you will get over it, and once you start getting over it, you need to start thinking about the good times you had with each other."
After returning to Tell City, stowing their instruments and other gear and watching a videotape of their performance, the Marksmen agreed it was a good show.
"You've matured so much as musicians and performers," Reasoner said.
"Whether the judges liked it or not, you guys put out a good product," Mulzer said. "Out of all the years we didn't go to state, I felt more with this one that I wanted to go on." Each time he was headed to a rehearsal, he said, "I was excited because I knew I got to teach each one of you."
Reasoner echoed the idea, saying he feels fortunate that he gets to teach many of his students for seven years.
"You can't help but get closer when you spend time together," he said, "and you can't help but care for one another when you get closer." Calling the band a family, he said, "the coolest thing about this job is the connection you make with people who are developing, and you guys are developing."
Mulzer said Tuesday this year's show, titled "Controlled," was "one of the more difficult shows we've tried to perform. And the competition was better than usual, but we were right in the hunt with them. We didn't quite overcome some obstacles we hit through the year. We had a young band that worked very hard. We were up against a lot of adversity, such as the summer heat, some kids dropping out and having to do a lot of rewrites to the show."
The performers have turned their attention to the concert-band and solo-and-ensemble season.
High-school performers will present their winter concert at 2 p.m. Dec. 16 in the auditorium. A junior-high concert will begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 18.
Mulzer said all seventh- through 12th-graders will compete in solo-and-ensemble competitions, which are scheduled for January and February.