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Blue Streaks and Future Rocktown Band Join Forces to Open for Levitt AMP Harrisonburg Music Series

June 28, 2024 by Haley Thomas

Wednesday evening, Harrisonburg and Rockingham’s high school bands joined forces, donned their matching tie-dye T-shirts and marched onto the Turner Pavilion lawn. With approximately 1,400 community members in attendance, the marching bands kicked off the first show of HDR’s Levitt AMP Harrisonburg Music Series.

In the hot summer sun, the band cranked out hits like The Weeknd’s “I Feel it Coming,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and WALK THE MOON’s “Shut Up and Dance” as audience members sang and danced along.

Daniel Upton, who co-directs the band with Claire Leeper, said they elected to perform popular pep songs that have already been a part of the bands’ “book.”

“Using material the students are familiar with makes a gig such as this low stress, yet high energy!” — Daniel Upton

The 75 students all originate at Harrisonburg High School, but many will be moving to Rocktown High School once it opens this fall. Each school will have its own concert band and symphonic band, but student musicians from both schools will combine for larger performances. 

“This performance is the sneak peak of the two band programs collaborating in public performances in the future,” Upton said. “We are excited to showcase together Harrisonburg Blue Streak Band members and future Rocktown Band members!”

Even with countless performances under their belt, Upton said students didn’t know what to expect from opening for a Levitt show.

“It isn’t like their traditional annual performances of the downtown parades, at a football game or on the school stage. It is one of those things that they will really get fired up about once they see the venue, the crowd and the community support.  We strive to give them new unique experiences as often as possible, like this one!” — Daniel Upton

And Upton wasn’t wrong. Gigi Perez, an HHS band member who played cymbals during the show, said the show went better than she could’ve hoped.

“It was so great to see everyone here happy and smiling,” Perez said. “And we got to do what we love with our friends. It’s great!”

Another HHS band member, trombonist Josiah Nafziger, said he agreed with Perez. Nafziger said he was especially proud of the fact that he and his bandmates pulled the show off in mid-summer.

Upton said the students met for one day to rehearse soon after school let out for the summer, and again on the day of the show. Other than that, a performance’s success depends on at-home practice.

“We hope everyone practices,” Perez said with a laugh.

Perez said she joined band in 6th grade and found her people. 

“The main thing I like about band is the community around it,” Perez said. “I don’t think I’ve met a single not-kind person in band. It’s a really supportive environment and it’s really fun.”

Nafziger also started his band journey in 6th grade, and agreed that the community it creates – by those in the band and those who attend shows – is his favorite aspect. 

“Especially with all the hardships you go through in marching band, you really build up that community and find people you can trust and rely on.” — Josiah Nafziger

Perez agreed, and said that being a member of the band takes passion, because it’s no easy feat. 

“Yeah, sometimes you suffer,” Perez said. “It’s crazy hot outside and it takes a lot of endurance, but it’s all worth it in the end for days like this. And shoutout to our band directors because they worked so hard to put this together, and it’s not easy! Especially with all the planning that’s been going on with combining the bands.”

Upton said his students are his primary motivators. 

“[The students] keep everything worthwhile, even in the most stressful of times,” Upton said. “Their excitement and care for each other is like nothing else. They care more about their band community than anything else!”

HDR’s Levitt AMP Harrisonburg Music Series started with a bang, and don’t worry – you have nine more shows to look forward to! Save the date for next Friday’s Levitt show from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., featuring Yam Yam with Florencia & the Feeling and their jazz funk, pop-funk fusion. And be sure to stick around after the show for HDR’s Independence Day fireworks!