Hassan Sayed ’15
The burning August sun beats down upon the sixty or so high school students, standing at attention in an open field somewhere in rural Ohio. The constant shrill ticking of the metronome pounds away at their tired ears, their varied sizes of instruments seeking to drag them to the ground. The forces of nature willing to pull apart and destroy the attentive stature of these young men and women.
But they persevere.
And, then they march.
They move to form perfect circles, pyramids, lines, and squares over the vast expanse of the trodden field with painstaking precision.
And it repeats.
This is band camp.
The past summer marked a large turning point for the St. Edward High School Marching Eagles: the arrival of band director Mr. Angelo Kortyka. Mr. Kortyka, a member of the St. Ed’s graduating class of 1998. While at school, Mr. Kortyka participated in the marching band, the jazz band, stage crew, and acted in many of the Edwardian Players’ productions. He is well versed in working with and teaching the performing, having worked extensively with developing band programs in Tennessee. When asked about why he decided to become a band director, he responded that “I like music. I like interacting with people. And I’ve always had a knack for teaching people. So the three things kind of fell together. I resisted becoming a band director for a long time, but, when I realized that those three things are what I need in my life, band director is one of the only jobs where you get to do all of those three things on a daily basis.”
Mr. Kortyka has focused on meeting objectives and getting things done, constantly challenging the students to perform better than the previous time. He says that “the students are very nice and rather intelligent, which, is challenging for me as a teacher, because I have to challenge [them] so [they] stay interested…what I hope to be able to do is to provide the students with a better experience than I received at St. Ed’s, which was a good one…I want students to understand being a total musician.”
Every rehearsal will begin with some sort of motivational advice focusing on working hard and striving towards lofty goals. As a result, the band progresses very rapidly and has develops extensively, both audibly and visually. Notably, the drum line and front ensemble are much further ahead in learning their competition show pieces than at a similar point last year.
And while he might seem very authoritarian, Mr. Kortyka is focused on the small, personal aspects of improving relations within the marching band. He says that “I don’t look down at the students…I don’t see myself as a former student, I don’t see myself as the boss. I am plugging in to something that is already here and expanding on it.” He added that technology has played a huge role in changing the band atmosphere: “The band group is much more tightly knit than it was when I was here, but in not necessarily a bad way. [They] can stay in touch via Facebook, cell phones, whatever. And, because of that, [they] keep that family thing going 24/7 instead of just when [they] are here.”
Family. The marching band is a family. Be they the fun times at band camps or the tense moments before the start of a performance, everyone is in it together. They are all experiencing the same thing. They are in sync. Mr. Kortyka is their metronome, and they need to stay in time, keeping up with his demands. And they do. What keeps the students from giving up on the burning field or the rainy turf is a sense of pride and unity which keeps them going. That is what keeps them from falling apart. That is what brings them together.