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Allen High School Proves Everything Really is Bigger in Texas

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By Courtney Schellin

With 848 members, Allen High School’s Escadrille band is the largest high school marching band in the country.

Allen, Texas is a town known for its football.

So it may have come as a surprise to many when the homecoming ballot revealed that not a single football player made the list this year. In fact, the majority of nominees were band members.

And who were crowned homecoming king and queen?

Two members of the Allen Eagle Escadrille Band: Cade Snowden, drum major and saxophonist, won homecoming king. Liz Smith, the band’s Vice President and a clarinet player, was crowned homecoming queen.

“Yahoo! Second time two band members got king and queen. I was happy,” said Allen Escadrille member Justin McNair, who plays the trumpet.

For Allen High School, that’s how it goes.

Of the school’s 5,000 students, 848 make up the Allen Eagle Escadrille, the largest high school marching band in the country.

“It’s definitely a backbone of the school,” senior Aaron Ly said.

The Allen Eagle Escadrille is made up of 710 marching band members, 78 drill team members and 60 color guard members. That number is equal to half the number of players in the NFL, or the capacity of approximately 15 greyhound buses, 120 minivans, or two full 747 airplanes.

When the Escadrille travels, whether it is for special events, contests or games, it requires 23 school buses, and three trucks filled with equipment.

At the opening game in late August in Allen’s new $60 million stadium, not only did band members take up a full section within the 18,000 seats, they covered the entire field at halftime.

According to Jimmy Maroney, Allen High School’s agricultural science teacher, the band is so loud, and has such an impact, that their music steals the attention from more than just the fans.

“Our band will have an influence on the game,” said Maroney, speaking one afternoon from his classrooms. “It’s big enough that it can be loud enough that the quarterbacks can’t hear, like what you might see in a pro stadium.”

Because of the bands size, students who are not band members almost always will have a friend in the band, or at least know someone in the band, said Ly.

Even teachers like Sarah Griffeth, who also teaches agricultural science, have found it rare to have a class without any band members.

“Half of my class is in the band,” said Griffeth, pointing to various students scattered around a classroom one recent afternoon.

Although Allen does not require try-outs for the band, being an Allen Eagle Escadrille member is not to be taken lightly. The students are required to practice from 7 to 9 a.m. everyday, but many can also be seen rehearsing throughout the day in instrument practice rooms around campus.

Escadrille trombone player Chris Simmons says that playing in the band is not only time consuming, but also hard work.

“It cuts into chemistry,” he said while entering into the band hall.

Allen Eagle Escadrille Band Director Charles Pennington said the band is also unique because many of the members are also involved in another sport or activity.

“We even have football players in the band. Cheerleaders even,” Pennington said. “They show up on the field with their football uniform on and go march and play.”

For McNair, who in addition to playing the trumpet, is captain of Blue Crew Cheer, and was a homecoming nominee, balancing a social life along with cheer and band is a lot to take on. But when it comes to game day it is always worth it.

“I get the best of both worlds because I’m on the field and I get to march,” McNair said full of pride.

As the band director, Pennington confesses that getting to know each member individually is not easy due to the band’s size.

“Every kid is known by somebody [on the band staff], even though I may not know every single kid,” said Pennington. “I keep trying but I’ll never learn them all.”

Despite having less time with the directors, when it comes down to it, several band members said they wouldn’t have the Escadrille any other way.

“I prefer being on a big band because it’s a lot more intense and you can feel the music go through you when you play because you’re surrounded,” said McNair. “I’ve heard other bands play and they just don’t compare to the Allen High School band.”

Courtney Schellin is a Journalism and Sport Management major at Southern Methodist University with a passion for sports reporting. cschellin@smu.edu

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