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Murray Journal

Murray High School’s marching band completes football game experience

Nov 07, 2018 10:09AM ● By Jana Klopsch

Murray High School marching band members compete in their new-to-them uniforms. (Jordan Beckstrand/Murray High)

By Carl Fauver | carlf@mycityjournals.com

A brand new Weber State University graduate has taken over as director of the almost-brand-new Murray High School marching band.

And Jordan Beckstrand couldn’t be happier.

“I love marching bands,” the secondary music education major said. “I was a drum line instructor for 10 years at Viewmont High School and was student teaching at Bountiful High when I applied for this position. I love it.”

Beckstrand replaced former director Zach Giddings, who shifted to Riverview Junior High this year. Giddings brought the Spartan marching band back from the dead last year. But he was not alone.

“I have nine children and six of them were in high school marching bands in Chandler, Arizona,” said Diana Stewart, at a recent Murray band practice. “So, when we moved back here to Utah – and I learned Murray High had done away with its marching band – I volunteered, along with some other parents, to help Mr. Giddings to get one going.”

A 1987 MHS graduate, Stewart enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Spartan high school marching herself while she was a student.  But four years after she earned her diploma, the marching band folded up shop.

“I wasn’t in the band; I was a cross country runner,” Stewart added. “But when my second-oldest son said he wanted to perform in a marching band (in Arizona), we got him involved. Then my oldest joined in. Now six of my kids have done it, and two are on this year’s Murray band (senior Ian is a drummer while sophomore Hannah is a member of the color guard).”

“And my youngest is in eighth grade, anxious to try out next year,” she concluded.

Beckstrand reported the marching band has grown from about 30 members last year to 50 this year. They are also now decked out in new-to-them marching band uniforms.

“Believe it or not, marching band uniforms, brand new, can cost hundreds of dollars each, so we did not go that route,” Beckstrand said. “Instead, we were able to buy 100 used uniforms from a school back east, for $3,000. They are all black and white, and we have not yet decided how to accent them with orange (Murray’s third school color). But we had them hemmed and altered and they look great.”

With their new look, the group has entered a number of marching band competitions again this year. Because it has nearly doubled in size, the Spartans have moved from Class 1A competition to Class 2A.

Assisting Beckstrand with the band is his wife Cassidy, who teaches percussion.

“We are both drummers – that’s how we met,” he added. “As soon as I got the job I told her she would need to help me. It’s been fun.”

After an intensive summer of practice – right after the new band was assembled – the group moved on to practicing five hours per week, on two nights, during the school year. Among those impressed with their dedication is Spartan football head coach Todd Thompson.

“They are insane; they practice more than we do,” Thompson said. “It’s awesome what they add to our football nights. At the collegiate level, lots and lots of schools have marching bands. But to have one at our level is great. Especially bringing this one back after it was gone for so long. I love it because it lets our school showcase many more of our kids and all they do. It also draws more fans to our football games.”

Murray senior Niel Johnson plays eight different instruments, is a member of the marching band and the school’s Instrumental Music Council president.

“I wish marching band had started earlier but am glad I have had it for my last two years here,” he said. “I want to go out of state to college and would love to go to a school with a marching band. Someday I would like to be a music instructor.”

Another marching band senior is Madison Castillo, the only female drum major the Murray High School group has had, going back to its origins in the 1930s.

“Drum majors are the people in front, on stands, conducting the marching band,” she explained. “We have one male drum major and I am the first female. Believe it or not, I fell in love with drum majoring way back when I was nine years old, living in Florida. There are lots of marching bands down there.”

Not so many here in Utah. But Murray High School remains proud to have one of them.