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The City Journals

Alta Marching Band to march on Washington, D.C.

Oct 28, 2016 11:14AM ● By Julie Slama

Alta High School Marching Band was scheduled to wrap up its fall competitive season with the state championships on Oct. 28. (Caleb Shabestari/Alta High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Sandy, Utah - Junior Jacque Wainwright is looking forward to spring. Not only will her broken ankle she injured in an early August marching band practice be fully healed, but she will also rejoin her older sister Jordyn, her twin brother Josh, and about 75 other members of the Alta High Marching Band when they march in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. 

“We were invited as the only band in the state to march in the parade,” Jacque said, who joined her sister on the color guard three years ago, but continues to play flute and oboe. “I really like dancing and showing the emotion of the music through being a part of the color guard.”  

Alta Marching Band Director Caleb Shabestari said Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan nominated the band for the honor.

“We’re excited at the chance to perform, plus it will be a great opportunity for the students to see our country’s government buildings, monuments and museums,” he said.

Alta’s marching band, in its fourth year, isn’t just comprised of its own school members. They welcome members from private, charter and public schools in the area who do not have marching bands and who are committed to their schedule, which currently means nine hours of after-school practices and a fall schedule of performances and competitions.

Recently coming off of the Davis Cup on Oct. 11, the band, under the direction of drum majors seniors Hannah Johnson and Andrew Williams, took third place in its division. They are slated to perform in other competitions leading up to the Dixie State Red Rocks Competition and Utah State Marching Band Competition on Oct. 28. 

Last year, competing against other schools the same size, Alta’s marching band placed third at the state contest. The two previous years, competing at a level with fewer students, they won the state title.

Before marching band competition season begins, Alta band also marches in three Sandy and Draper parades as well as for neighborhood performances, in addition to practicing 200 hours in the summer and attending a 60-hour band camp in August.

“The week consists of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday practicing with a lot of physical activity, mostly concentrating on our show,” said Jordyn, a senior at Alta who is in the color guard for marching band but plays clarinet and baritone sax in other school instrumental groups. “It’s exhausting. When we perform, we put everything into it so we, like the audience, to be able to hear and feel the music and get the emotion out of it. Our story we perform goes through interesting changes from being happy, then experiencing death and sadness to rebirth.”

Alta’s show, “Avalon,” is set in the days of King Arthur and involves a battle scene during its five movements, which come from Mozart’s “Requiem” and Verdi’s “Requiem.” 

“The color guard is the main character as they lead us to the biggest visual component,” Shabestari said.

Jordyn said she appreciates the freedom they’re able to express through movement.

“Having dance background is helpful and so is flexibility. We’re constantly conditioning,” she said.

Color guard, visual effects and visual ensemble are three components of the criteria the band is judged on. Others include music ensemble, musical performance and percussion effect.

“I love the pieces of music and how they portray a story and the movement and visual aspects help add how the music is telling what’s happening,” said Jordyn’s brother Josh, who plays trombone and sousaphone. “Marching band is a commitment. We get marked down if someone doesn’t show. We can’t just switch and substitute someone as you could in sports. If someone isn’t playing their part right, that’s another mark down. We’re a group and we put a lot of work into it. But it’s a lot of fun, because we’re friends.”

Shabestari said students involved in marching band gain many life skills.

“Marching band affects every aspect of daily life from social skills to leadership and teamwork. These kids are very organized and dedicated and come to rehearsal prepared, on time and ready. And studies show, music decreases stress in their life and helps them excel in other areas,” he said.

When the marching band season concludes, Jacque and Jordyn and other members of the color guard will gear up for winter guard — a chance for them to perform during the winter season. 

Band members — who may play in one of the school’s other seven groups — will continue to sell items for fundraising for their Memorial Day parade trip and seeks sponsors who are willing to support the band. More information on how to contribute is available on