At halftime during a recent Forest Hills Northern High School varsity football home game against Greenville, cheerleaders finished “Let’s Go!” and joined friends and family in the stands as football players made their way back to the locker rooms.
But a few stayed behind, including senior Logan Juth and sophomores Sophia Jamula and Hannah Neily.
Sophia scrambled for her trumpet while Hannah grabbed her mellophone — a sort of walking French horn, she explained. The pair of junior varsity cheerleaders slid into snappy blue-and-white jackets as they made their way to the field. Logan picked up his alto saxophone from a case he kept nearby, and, still in his football uniform, also joined the marching band.
It was a Led Zeppelin medley that night, starting with “Kashmir” and wrapping up with “Whole Lotta Love.”
Said Hannah of being in front of the large crowds, blowing her horn and moving in formation to the beats — even those decidedly not of her generation — “I just love being part of something that big.”
Not Rare, Definitely Well Done
While athletes who participate in marching band for the same games is not unheard of, it doesn’t usually happen often enough to be called widespread. At Forest Hills Northern, however, Director of Bands Jeff Robke said there has been at least one dual participant all of the 11 years he has been at the school. One year it was the starting quarterback, he said.
“It’s just kind of a philosophy I have, to be a supporter of students who want to pursue as many interests as they have,” Robke said.
The two interests complement each other, he said; both athletics and band require dedication, perseverance, commitment and teamwork. As for time management, conflicts are rare, he said, but “it’s really on them to be very organized.”
“I’m proud of all the students who do both,” Robke said. “I think it shows how well band can be integrated into everything else at high school.”
Crazy, But Cool
Logan and Hannah agree that to do both requires organization and, occasionally, compromise. Hannah and Sophia can’t often make it to tumbling practice — or all of it — on Monday nights, as it is held at the same time as band practice. “But I have my back handspring, so I’m good,” Hannah said.
Varsity Cheerleading Coach Jennifer Wood said conflicts between practices do exist. “It’s not an ideal situation, but we try to make the best of it for the girls,” she said.
The athlete/musicians insist their grades do not pay a price for their dual-extracurricular activities. Or triple, in Logan’s case: He’s also on the varsity soccer team, his third after-school activity, and manages to, well, manage it all.
“My older brother told me I should do as much as possible my senior year,” Logan recalled. “When I told him what I was doing he said ‘Dude, I didn’t mean every fall sport.’ He thought it was cool. Crazy, but cool.”
Sophia said she also gets a little ribbing from those who think she’s taking on a lot.
“It is tough,” she admitted, “but if you’re going to do it you have to be ready to juggle everything. I am kind of a person who wants to do as much as I can. I didn’t want to miss out on anything.”
Grand Rapids High School Bands Online (explains juggling issue)