Grain Valley Marching Eagles are excited to again be a part of Friday night under the lights
The sounds of the Grain Valley High School Marching Eagles rang loud and clear as band director Travis Barzee held an energetic late night practice session on the school's south parking lot.
A parent rented a massive flood light so the 176-strong Marching Eagles and color guard could put the finishing touches on a program to be unveiled at an upcoming football game. Parents steadily arrived a few minutes before 9 p.m., turned off their headlights and watched .
This is Barzee's second year at Grain Valley, but it is the first year his Marching Eagles have been able to perform at football games and competitions. It's difficult to tell who is more excited, the 2010 graduate of Blue Springs High School, or the members of the band.
"This is great, so great!" senior drum major Jack Temple said under the lights, as color guard members collected their flags and his bandmates walked to their cars. "It's such a shift from last year. We were still able to practice, and we had a couple of small performances just for our parents, but this is the real deal this year. And Mr. Barzee is the best!"
Fellow drum majors Aneysha Molina and Emmalee Lockwood nodded in agreement.
"Mr. Barzee is so compassionate and caring," Molina said, "but he wants us to work hard and be the very best that we can be. He gives many responsibilities, and sometimes, when you are working with your peers, that can be difficult. But he always has our back, and working with band as a band major is a dream come true for all of us."
Lockwood says she draws inspiration from Barzee, who marched in the Rose Bowl Parade and at President Obama's first inauguration while a student at Blue Springs High School.
"You could tell how passionate Mr. Barzee is the first time we met him," Lockwood said. "He knows what the band means to us and we know what it means to him. That's why we get so excited to practice; and we really get excited to perform, which we have been able to do this year."
After the practice, Barzee climbs down from his portable tower, and has one more announcement. He asks members of the band and color guard to gather near where a band parent displays a poster-sized photo of the Marching Eagles taken on the football field.
Watching all of this excitement is Barzee, the sixth of six children – none of the rest of whom ever picked up a musical instrument.
"Nope, I'm the only band nerd in my family," he said, grinning. "I come from a blue-collar, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-grab-your-lunch-pail family, and that is where I get my work ethic. And it's the right work ethic to be working with the kids at Grain Valley."
Barzee's wife, Marisa, works with Blue Springs band director Tim Alshouse, and Barzee spent some time as an assistant working with the Wildcats program.
As Barzee talks about the Marching Eagles in a commons area inside the high school's business office, principal Jeremy Plowman walks by, gives him a thumb's up salute and says, "The best of the best!"
Barzee got a similar compliment from Assistant Superintendent Brad Welle, who approached him after a performance and said, "We're back!"
"When you have the support of your administration – and I mean from Dr. Snow (Marc Snow, the superintendent) and Dr. Welle, to everyone is our building and our parents and community it just makes you want to work that much harder to make this the best program it can be.”
"There was a soccer game (Wednesday night), so we couldn't practice on the soccer field and a parent rented the floodlight, brought it and set it up so we could practice. When you get that kind of dedication from your parents, you know you are going to get that kind of dedication from their kids - and we do!"
He also gets it from head football coach David Allie, a former trumpet player whose daughter Harper is a trumpet section leader in the Marching Eagles.
"We have a mutual respect for each other, and Tyler and I really like each other," Allie said. "When the band was unable to play at our games last year, we just felt like we were missing something. Now, that the Marching Eagles are back, Friday nights are just a little bit for fun, a little bit more special."
When he attended Putnam County High School, Allie played the trumpet in the marching band and also played football.
"I was the guy who took his shoulder pads and went out and played with the marching band at halftime, and it was great," Allie said with a chuckle. "When you go to a school with 300 kids, you do a little bit of everything.”
"I'm not saying a thing about any other sport, but few put in as many hours as we do in football, and few put in as many hours as those band kids – and I know because my daughter is a band kid, and I am so proud of her. And I'm proud of our band and am so happy that Friday night under the lights now includes football, the band and everything that makes it so special."