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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Bengals comeback: marching band to return to the field next fall

Dec 04, 2019 08:53AM ● By Julie Slama

Uniforms from a former Brighton High marching band are reminders of days gone by; next year’s marching band will return to the football field after a 30-year hiatus wearing new uniforms. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Next school year, Friday night lights will look a bit different at Brighton High. Returning to their football field after a 30-year hiatus will be the school’s marching band.

“Brighton had a strong, active marching band as did the other east side high schools — Alta, Hillcrest, Jordan — in the 1980s and 1990s, but then the interest faded and it fizzled,” Principal Tom Sherwood said. “I’m thrilled I hired someone who tripled the number of students in the instrumental program and now is not only wanting to build the marching band program, but someone who will run it once it’s built. It’s a lot of work.”

That someone is Mikala Mortensen, who last year, in her second year, first approached Sherwood to start a drumline at the school. The band program received his support for $25,000 to purchase new drums to replace the aging equipment. 

After the momentum and success of the drumline, which played at sporting events as well as school-wide functions, Mortensen gained the support to the tune of $296,000 from Canyons Board of Education in October to begin the school’s marching band.

Alta High is the only other Canyons high school that has a marching band, which returned in 2013. Hillcrest High’s band parades into their football stadium, but, according to director Austin Hilla, is easing into the approach of performing on the field over a number of years.

Sherwood is grateful for the capital funding for Brighton’s marching band program.

“The board was generous, and it will be a really good start. It will go toward buying instruments, uniforms and storage for equipment,” he said.

Sherwood, who played saxophone through eighth grade, said he appreciated hearing his high school, Bingham’s marching band, when he played football.

“It was a great addition to have them on the field with us, performing, showing their talents,” he said, adding that he expects that same culture to be a part of the Bengals’ high school experience. “It gives kids a chance to connect with those who have the same skill sets, a chance to belong and support one another — and it absolutely will bridge kids who have an interest in music with those in athletics. It will boost our school spirit.”

Mortensen isn’t new to marching bands. She marched in the Rose Bowl Parade as a part of Westlake High’s band and also played with in the Blue Knight Drum & Bugle Corps.

“Marching band changed my whole life when I was in high school,” she said. “I developed friendships and connected with others. It completely changed the culture for me of playing.”

Having that background and connections in the community, plus a strong interest from students and families from a survey conducted, she talked to alumni to find out about the school’s former marching band.

“I learned that it was more community oriented. It was a strong band, but didn’t compete much,” she said. “They were excited to hear it was making a comeback.”

While she’s not sure if the marching band will have a theme show or a show with simple geometrical designs next fall, her students are excited about being on their home turf.

Hailey Timm and Ella Mittelstadt were among 10 Brighton students who participated in Canyons’ all-district summer marching band at Alta High, and will be among those with experience to help lead their peers in fall 2020.

Mittelstadt said she made a lot of really good friends and learned to play to set standards.

“We learned to be respectful and rehearse together. We worked as a team,” she said, adding that playing music and marching was “a good way to exercise for those who don’t like to go for a long, boring run.”

Timm hopes that through their experiences, they can lead by example.

“Marching band is one of my greatest passions,” she said. “Everyone has to work together and work hard. It’s a powerful group and we made strong bonds. It’s amazing and stimulating. I enjoy the camaraderie and seeing myself improve. We worked so hard, I had aching muscles after marching and playing music, but it set a tone and created a culture for us and those around us.”

Mortensen, who directs near an old orange tiger marching band uniform framed on her band room wall, knows a lot are counting on her.

“When I got here, the band culture wasn’t really as strong. I’m a band kid and want students here to be involved and well rounded,” she said. “As a director, I realize we need to build up this void and have the marching band be a sense of pride and part of this community.”