And the band played on: Douglas High music students rally for first practice

by Joey Crandall,

Drum major camps cover a lot of topics when it comes to commanding a high school band for the field of competition.

Band members go through marching drills Tuesday morning.
Band members go through marching drills Tuesday morning.

Technique and performance skills. Field management. Motivating and unifying your band. Problem solving.

Douglas High marching band drum major Bette Phillips, age 15, and assistant drum major Brandon Pierce never expected they’d begin putting those skills into real-life practice while they were still at camp in Santa Clara.

The rumor mill started swirling Friday night that – back in Gardnerville – longtime Douglas High band director Bill Zabelsky had left his position.

By Saturday, it had been confirmed that Zabelsky had resigned and by Sunday word was out that he had become the band director at Carson High School.

“We were in Santa Clara and started hearing some rumors, but we didn’t know exactly what was going on,” Phillips said. “When we found out officially, on Saturday, we started calling everyone from Santa Clara, trying to arrange an informal camp for this week. We were trying to get it cleared with the administration and things like that.

“The whole six-hour drive home on Sunday, we were on the phone. We got back into town at 7 p.m. Sunday and started coordinating on Facebook, trying to get everyone on the same page and stop more rumors from spreading around. (Douglas principal) Mr. (Marty) Swisher had contacted my house and said to come in and talk with him on Monday.”


Phillips and Pierce were at the high school at 9 a.m. Monday, the originally-scheduled start date, to turn anyone away who hadn’t yet been informed. Phillips met with Swisher, and then later with Swisher and a bigger group of students and teachers to hash out an informal schedule for the week.

“We got everything arranged, posted a schedule on the school’s Web site and on Facebook last night and got everyone up to speed,” Phillips said.

After a whirlwind weekend, nearly 70 people were at an informational meeting Tuesday morning. Following that, the drum majors and about 10 returning students facilitated marching drills for new members of the band to help the process of learning marching steps and commands.

“The returning members weren’t required to be here, but some came and helped,” Phillips said. “We had about 10 “teachers” and 10 others just around to help.”

“Everyone was excited to get going,” Phillips said. “They were really excited when I contacted them and explained the plan. The general feeling was that we can do this. We have to come together as a group, but we can do this.”

This year’s marching band is numbered at 75 members. New members will return for drill Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon and a parent and booster meeting is set for Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Douglas High commons.

The full band will review marching steps and practice the school fight song and “Star Spangled Banner” starting Thursday at 8 a.m. and again on Friday at 8 a.m. The full schedule can be found at this link.

“It’s mostly games and activities to get people used to the marching and meet everyone else these first few days,” Phillips said. “We’re hoping to have lines on the practice field by the end of the week. We’re working on getting drill books put together and the music copied and organized.” Band4-cvt-080713

The band will be playing an Elvis Presley theme for this year’s field show.

Pau-Wa-Lu music director Tammy Owens will advise the high school band on an interim basis, but was unavailable for the start of this week.

“Our hope is to really start working on the actual field show on Monday,” Phillips said.

5 thoughts on “And the band played on: Douglas High music students rally for first practice

  1. I am so impressed with the band students. This has been a difficult time, and the students have rallied to make this week, and hopefully the entire season, a success. Go Tigers!!!

  2. So am I, Vanessa! Tigers, your community is behind you! Close the old chapter, open the new one. You are already winners. You have demonstrated maturity and grace under great pressure. I can’t wait to see your performances this year!

  3. That is so great that the kids took the bull by the horns so to speak and did what was necessary to get the party started!! Good for them! They are the winners! Tammy Owens is a great teacher and leader and I know she will be of great help to them

  4. As the saying goes, “The show must go on”. I am very impressed with how Bette and Brandon have jumped right in along with the guidance of Mr. Swisher to get everyone on board and keep moving forward, A big thank you to to those students who previously graduated but came back to help out. Let’s fight on!

  5. It’s so nice to finally see some positive things being said instead of all the Douglas County bashing! The most important thing here is the kids! They have shown so much maturity through this, more than I’ve seen most of the adults on Facebook commenting on these articles. Way to go DHS Marching Band and all the supporters!!

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