A chorus of cheers washed over the Clovis North High School marching band as it stepped onto the field at Lamonica Stadium for a competition show.
The band’s loudest fans were Clovis North football players, a group more accustomed to flying around the grassy field in their uniforms and helmets. But on this night, the Broncos’ football team had come to sit in the stands and root for 150 musicians and color guard members.
Call it showing respect. Breaking down stereotypes. Building a bond between two groups that help create school spirit on autumn evenings of each new high school year.
“The band works really hard day in and day out, just like us, and it’s about time we showed appreciation for what they do,” said football player John Halajian.
Band members welcomed the support.
“Super awesome,” said Michael Neufeld, who plays baritone horn.
“Normally, you think of the marching band going to football games to support the football team, which we do,” Neufeld said. “But usually you don’t receive that kind of support coming back from the football team.”
The Golden State Tournament of Bands competition at Lamonica Stadium was held Oct. 29 — a Saturday night. Bands from throughout the Valley performed seven to 11-minute field shows of complex music and carefully choreographed moves.
Like many of the football players, Halajian was attending his first band show.
“Everybody out there is a great performer. So I’m pretty excited to see what they can put on,” Halajian said.
Band director David Lesser credits Casey Quinn, Clovis North’s new head football coach, with reaching out to the band. “I’ve never had a football coach before who understood the role that the band plays in being part of the school culture, being there to support football and being the spirit leaders of the school with the cheerleaders,” Lesser said.
But he wasn’t surprised that Quinn took the initiative. The two men previously taught together at Clovis West High School, and Quinn demonstrated that he wanted to develop not only good players but people with character and integrity, Lesser said.
The football team’s show of support took several forms at Clovis North.
After the team finished playing in the homecoming game on Sept. 16, players headed to the stands instead of the locker room. They sat and watched the band perform its field show — normally presented during halftime but delayed that night because of homecoming activities.
It was impressive to see the team in the stands, said T.J. Streeter, who plays trumpet in the band.
“I know how much they put into a game because I used to do football. So I think it was just a really cool thing for them to do,” he said.
After the band finished that night, Quinn addressed the musicians and color guard. His message came down to this, according to Lesser. “You work as hard or harder than we do.”
Quinn said later in an interview that band members have “a passion for their craft” and a strong work ethic.
“We’re trying to model our program after them. That’s why we gravitate toward them,” he said.
The week following homecoming, the football team hosted a pizza lunch for band members. Sharing a meal is one of the best ways to establish a healthy relationship among students, Quinn said.
At the lunch, football players gave band members T-shirts that said: “Drop The Hat.” The saying refers to the Clovis North drum major dropping his hat to the ground and saluting spectators before the band starts a field show. Students in the Clovis North rooting section chant the saying at football games.
Clovis North learning director Anthony Follis said the football team’s show of support sends an important message.
“It’s exciting to see that our kids are building a culture of equality, family, school spirit and respect,” Follis said.
Lesser, the band director, agrees. “I can’t say enough how cool it is” that Clovis North’s staff is fostering a “sense of togetherness” among students, he said.
By getting to know one another, band members and football players can begin to see each other as individuals, said Streeter, the trumpet player.
“We’re appreciating each other for the different diversities we have in our groups,” he said.
At the Lamonica band competition, Clovis North had the loudest rooting section — thanks to the enthusiastic football players.
“I think it makes us all want to try harder,” said Michael Coppedge, a clarinet player in the band. “The players didn’t have to show up. So it was our job to show our respect and how much we appreciate them coming by playing our best,” he said.
Broncos’ quarterback Brent Bailey hopes that future football teams at Clovis North continue what started this year.
“I respect what they do,” he said of the band, “and they deserve a lot of eyes on them.”
Quinn believes that his players need to see beyond football.
“It’s good for our kids to experience something else,” he said. “They’re not just athletes. They’re students of Clovis North and the Clovis Unified School District.”