FERNDALE — Piper DeNoyer walked into Ford Field on Saturday, Nov. 2, feeling good.
DeNoyer and the other members of the Ferndale High School marching band had a terrific season, and they knew they had a chance to take first place at the Michigan Competing Band Association State Championships.
“I felt so excited,” the senior mellophone player said. “For my senior year, this was it. And I had never felt so good going into a show before, because I knew we had it in the bag. Like, our show was so clean. Everybody was feeling good about the day. I was just so excited for us to perform.”
The Golden Eagle Marching Band competed in the Flight IV division Saturday night and was the last school to take the field for its performance, “The Sounds of Silence.”
Following the band’s show, which includes its American Sign Language-infused performance of the song “Watch These Hands” by noted deaf hip-hop artist Sean Forbes, the Ferndale students waited for the judges to render their verdict.
Ferndale High finished in second place, receiving a score of 90.875. They came in just under the school they placed behind in 2018 — Lakeshore High School, of Stevensville, Michigan — which received a score of 91.300. The band also received the award for Outstanding Visual Performance.
While the finish wasn’t what she and her bandmates had hoped for, DeNoyer still was proud of what they accomplished in putting on a show that “no one’s ever done before,” and that they did it “amazingly.”
“I’m perfectly fine with us coming in second place,” she said. “In the end, all that matters is that we put on a fantastic performance for the people who were there watching us and that … we feel good about it afterwards, no matter what place we get.”
Band Director Elon Jamison felt the same way. Though he saw his students struggle with the finish and coming up short again, he thought that they were able to gain some perspective after some time had passed, and they saw that what they had done this season was special.
“That’s sort of the crux of where I’m at and where I hope the kids are at with the placement, is that the truth is we had a phenomenal season,” he said. “They showed up to work every day. We got better every rehearsal, and that doesn’t happen every season. There’s seasons where we really struggle to move forward, and that didn’t happen. We were really productive and positive from the beginning to the end. They put on a show that was truly unique.”
Jamison wants to drive home to the kids that this year’s team was more important than a first-place finish, because that would have just been a bonus. It was about the great performances they had all year, the friendships that they made and all that they learned from their marching band experience.
He also stated that the students have to take into account just how well they did, as second place is no easy feat and still represents an incredible performance.
“The kids did a phenomenal job,” he said. “They played from the heart. They put on a great show. I know the audience really enjoyed it, and in the end, that’s the point.”
The state championship was the band’s last major show for the season, and for DeNoyer, a bittersweet moment.
While she hopes to continue in marching band at Michigan State University, it was one of the last times that DeNoyer will get to perform as part of a team that has meant a great deal to her for the last four years.
“I’ve been doing this for four years, and I cried last night,” she said. “I was just so sad that it was actually over. At first, I was like, ‘I’m not gonna cry. It’s not that big of a deal,’ and then it kind of hits you and you’re just like, ‘Wow, this is really over.’”