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CULTURE COUNTS: North High Marching Band Prepares for Starfest

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North High Marching Band
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Starfest takes place Saturday at Elwood Olsen Stadium in Sioux City. The marching band competition is hosted by the North High School Band. Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer caught up with the group as they rehearse for a season, which highlights cultural awareness for the young performers.

On a September night with record-breaking heat.

“Pretty much nothing can stop us from working.”

The North High Marching Band fine-tunes sound and steps under the guidance of Pat Toben.

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Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer
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North High Band Director Pat Toben

“The beep in the background is the metronome to help us keep time to keep our feet and time because of our feeder in time. That's going to help the forms develop. So that you see those different pictures throughout our movement."

This season brings more than notes and formations for the 97 ensemble members.

“The theme is Día de los Muertos, which is Day of the Dead.”

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North High Marching Band
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Grace Hodge is part of the color guard.

“The music's really fun. We have some slow songs, we have three movements, which means three songs, and they're all really funky and fun. And our flags show the culture and our outfits too. And we also have skeleton makeup, which is pretty cool.

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North High Color Guard Member Grace Hodge

Grace waves a green flag with a festive print designed by color guard instructor Damon Harrington.

“We consulted some people about Día de los Muertos and what you would see with that holiday with that celebration. And we put that imagery on the flags and colors and put it all together for our show.”

“A great way to kind of tie those two things together, allow kids to learn about the culture and maybe even people that don't quite know about their own culture, they can learn about it more in-depth."

Focusing the band’s performance around The Day of the Dead holds special meaning for Mirium Espinoza, who plays the clarinet.

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Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer
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North High Marching Band Member Miriam Espinoza

“I am in the Hispanic culture, and it’s something where you feel the family members who passed away are closer to you that day. It’s a day you feel that they are with you even when they are gone.”

Pat Toben, the Director of Bands at North High, believes tapping into tradition inspires a higher level of commitment and achievement.

And we have three movements. The first movement is you'll see a butterfly coming through the channel of students showing the migration of the butterflies back down to the south to start the Day of the Dead. From then, our second movement is the interaction of spirits with human life.

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North High Marching Band
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“Over 50% of our students are Hispanic, and our band is very diverse. And so, this is reaching our students in a way that some other music might not impact them as much. They’re putting their hearts and souls into this. And you can hear that in their playing as well. We started a Mariachi group last spring. And you'll notice in our third movement at the very beginning the style of the music is in that festival theme. We've got a mariachi ensemble for that.”

The North High Marching Band counting culture to harness harmony on and off the field.

“All the sections are kind of friends. We all like each other.”

INTERVIEW: North Band Director Pat Toben
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Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.