Write an essay, make a video, earn $3,000? When Rachel Schaeffer entered Halftime Magazine’s “Nominate Your Band” contest last March, she didn’t think much of her entry or the grand prize. That all changed in September when she found out she’d won.
Photo Courtesy of the Old Bridge High School Marching Knights
Rachel Schaeffer won Halftime Magazine’s “Nominate Your Band” competition following an online poll of readers and website visitors. Her winning essay and video earned her and the Old Bridge (N.J.) High School Marching Knights more than $3,000 in cash and prizes. Halftime Magazine tracked down Schaeffer, now a junior trumpet player at Old Bridge, and her band director Melissa Bolger to find out their thoughts on the contest and to learn more about the Marching Knights.
Halftime: What does this contest mean to you and your band?
Rachel Schaeffer: It’s a pretty big deal. This is a big deal to me because I didn’t think much of it when I entered. I just had a video and put together an essay. My band was very excited about it. At first they didn’t think much, but then they found out we could win $3,000, and they got excited. The equipment and the money are really good things for us. It’s a big thing.
Melissa Bolger: Obviously, money is always tight within a music budget, so any extra gift or this prize money is going to greatly affect what we do with the marching band and our show this year. We’re going to have new things or things we couldn’t afford for our show, especially during the competitive season.
Halftime: What made Rachel’s contest entry special?
MB: She has a lot of heart. She’s a student that will go above and beyond every time. She shows that through her work, her art, playing the trumpet. She shows her dedication and love through this essay. She just loves the marching band, and it means so much to her.
Halftime: In her video, Rachel says that the band’s competition score isn’t as important as individuals’ own personal feelings about a performance. Can you explain that philosophy?
RS: It’s almost like we’re competing against ourselves. We’re always trying to do better than the last competition. If you know you messed up on a foot placement in the last show, you’re trying to do better.
MB: We stress that it’s about the kids doing their personal best. Somebody else’s opinion of them shouldn’t matter. Whether they achieved something better than they did last year matters more than a score.
Halftime: What makes your band special?
RS: It’s a lot of fun. It’s like a big family. We get closer and closer. At the beginning of the season, we’re just kind of friends, and then by the end we get some really close relationships.
MB: I believe that they’re a family. They spend so many hours together that they help each other out. You’ll see kids after school helping each other with their homework because they know they have band practice. It’s this overall feeling of family and a warm feeling when you walk into the band room. It’s definitely a team effort. I’ve worked with several other bands, and I didn’t get that warmth from every band I worked with.
Halftime: What do you think marching band has taught you?
RS: It has definitely made me a better, more well-rounded person. I’ve learned better time management. I’ve become more confident as a player and speaker. If I didn’t manage my time well, I wouldn’t do well in school and couldn’t do marching band, so you’re sort of forced to do it.
MB: I did drum and bugle corps, and I lived with people. No matter what the differences were, I had to live and eat and breathe with these people and basically strive for perfection. There was always something to make better. I’ve definitely carried that through my life.
Halftime: Tell us about your teaching philosophy.
MB: My teaching philosophy is that music is a very essential part of a child’s growth emotionally and mentally. We [have] a lot of different ways of tapping into that musical growth—any way possible—with theory, through history, any aspect available to us.
Halftime: What has been your favorite part of the marching band experience so far?
RS: Two years ago at [Tournament of Bands] Atlantic Coast Championships, we came in 4th place [in Group 3]. Our band had never come that close to the top ever before. It was just amazing. We’d never even made top 10, and 4th place was just overwhelming. Everyone was so excited.
Halftime: Why do you think marching band is important?
MB: I think it definitely teaches them hard work and perseverance. I don’t know any other sport that rehearses as much as we do. It teaches them that they have to balance their time, manage their time effectively. We’re going for perfection here, and it takes a lot to do what we do.
Grand Prize Winner! A Listing of the Prizes
Rachel Schaeffer and the Old Bridge (N.J.) High School Marching Knights won big in Halftime Magazine’s “Nominate Your Band” competition. You can find Schaeffer’s winning essay and video at www.halftimemag.com/ articles/nominate-your-band-2007.html along with the submissions of the other three finalists.
Rachel’s winning essay and video netted her and the Marching Knights a prize package valued at more than $3,000.
Here’s what each came away with:
• 1-year subscription to Halftime Magazine, valued at $19.95
• Halftime Magazine T-shirt, pin and hat
Old Bridge High School Marching Knights:
• $1,000 paid to the band
• Full set of Remo PowerMax premuffled marching bass drumheads, estimated retail value of $725
• $500 (retail value) in Yamaha accessories
• $500 (retail value) in Evans Drumheads or Rico Reeds
• 1-year group subscription (10 copies per issue) to Halftime Magazine, valued at $99.50
• Halftime Magazine T-shirts for every member of the band
Enter the new 2009 essay/video competition, with applications due in early spring of 2009. Check our “Nominate Your Band” page for updates.