Strike up the band

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The Montezuma-County High School marching band will be competing in Pueblo at the state level Monday. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

The Montezuma-County High School marching band will be competing in Pueblo at the state level Monday.

The smallest Montezuma-Cortez High School marching band that Band Director Rodney Ritthaler has ever had is gearing up for the 3A state competition.

The Marching Panthers will compete Monday in the state competition in Pueblo. After that they will provide a community performance in Cortez on Tuesday, Oct. 30 before traveling to St. George, Utah for two days of high school band festivals.

Although this year’s band is the smallest Ritthaler has had in his 24 years at the school, the last 14 as band director, he is encouraged.

“The band has improved tremendously this year,” he said, noting 28 of its 52 members are new to band. “These last couple of weeks they’ve just really matured and become a solid group.”

Although the band placed second at regionals this year for the first time under Ritthaler’s tutelage — they normally place first — he doesn’t stress placement.

“I never tell the kids we have to place first. It’s secondary,” he said. “It’s not the focal point. I’m teaching them music and performance.”

Despite that, M-CHS is known for doing well at state. The Marching Panthers have finished second the past two years and placed third from 2006 to 2009. They were state champs in 2005.

This year’s edition of the Marching Panthers is performing “Beyond the Pacific,” a set of five movements that were written and composed especially for them by Scott Hickey of Boulder. M-CHS bands have been working with Hickey for more than 20 years, but previously he provided arrangements of already existing musical pieces.

“He wrote it (Beyond the Pacific) with the understanding of our instrumentation and size,” Ritthaler said.

M-CHS is ranked fifth among the top 10 3A schools that will compete at state on Monday.

On Tuesday, the band will provide a community performance of Beyond the Pacific at 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

On Friday, Nov. 2 they will participate in the Red Rocks Marching Festival at Dixie State College, and follow that up with the Bands of America Festival at Desert Hills High School in St. George.

calebs@cortezjournal.com