Small band, but big sound

Johnathan Geare, creeker editor

Consisting of only 27 students, the Cactus Shadows band is one of the smallest classes on campus. Despite the small size, the band is one of the most frequently performing fine arts groups on campus, performing at both symphonic and jazz concerts, as well as at school football and basketball games, in addition to local events like the recent Cave Creek 5K.
The symphonic band consists of three sections, woodwind, brass, and percussion. The majority of the twenty-seven students split between the first two.
Students follow sheet music written for their instrument to play different parts of the song. For woodwind and brass players, this means mastering one instrument to play for the band. On the contrary, percussionists are expected to play several instruments, often covering multiple parts in one song. “[Covering multiple parts] is a lot of fun. I enjoy running around, throwing mallets if I need to, it just adds to the chaos,” said Daniel Duffey, a junior percussionist on campus.
Because of this, percussionists are not responsible for renting or purchasing their instruments like the other sections are. Instead, most of the percussion instruments, as well as replacement parts and maintenance equipment, are owned by the school.
“Usually it’s not the percussionist’s job… They’ll have drum techs do it, but in this case I had to learn a lot about tuning the drums,” said Duffey.
In the 2020-2021 school year, Kevin Brady, Cactus Shadows’ former band director, stopped teaching marching band routines due to COVID-19 restrictions. In 2022, the marching band has yet to return.
Instead, the band performs as a pep band for school football and basketball games. Band members attach portable music stands known as lyres to their instruments to play shorter pop songs in the bleachers. Woodwind and brass players keep their same instruments from the symphonic band, while percussionists bring lighter, louder, more portable instruments meant for marching band.
For especially short pauses in the game, the pep band will play songs from the “break”, a specified part of a song chosen to get the chorus in before the game starts back up again. The pep band primarily plays at home games, but has previously traveled to Horizon High School during the football season. “It’s a blast supporting school teams, showing school spirit while playing music with a group of friends,” said Ben Sidoti, a sophomore.
The jazz band operates separately from the symphonic band, meeting during the school day as a third period class rather than before school as a zero hour class. The jazz band focuses on much longer, more improvisational music. The jazz band acts as a space for band members to experiment. Often by picking up a different instrument from the one they use in the symphonic and pep bands.
Once per semester, band concerts are often held in conjunction with the Cactus Shadows choir, featuring both the jazz band and the symphonic band. At these concerts, the bands perform the few songs rehearsed throughout the semester, with on-the-spot improvised solos from members of the jazz band. “The week before the concert is when things get really busy, it’s kind of hectic, and it can be easy for that to sort of overwhelm the concert, which is supposed to be fun,” said Andre Womack, the band director.