High school marching bands take center stage at Memorial Stadium

Saturday, October 12, 2013 | 7:54 p.m. CDT; updated 9:38 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 12, 2013
Bands compete Saturday in the Champion of Champions competition.

COLUMBIA — Megan Sweeney's hands were steady as she guided the members of Hickman High School's marching band through their performance. Sweeney, a senior, stood on a tall ladder overlooking her classmates as she moved in sync with the band's two other drum majors.

This was Sweeney's first year as a drum major.

"For my senior year I wanted to take on a new role in the band, so I auditioned," she said. "A lot of the band is really new, but they've done amazing and picked it up really fast."

As music echoed through the bleachers of Memorial Stadium, Sweeney's father, Tom, stood behind everyone else on the field, watching his daughter direct her fellow band mates. He is also Hickman's assistant marching band director.

"I'm pretty proud to have my daughter as one of the drum majors for Hickman," Tom Sweeney said. "It's pretty awesome."

Hickman's marching band was one of 25 high school marching bands from across Missouri to participate in the University of Missouri's Champion of Champions Marching Band Contest on Saturday. The event is hosted by MU's band program.

School buses lined the parking lots near the Hearnes Center, along with vans packed with equipment for the bands. Nearby, the marching bands' color guards practiced tossing their flags into the air.

Because the competition lasts all day, families set up to tailgate in the lots. Hundreds of spectators came out to watch the bands compete in this year's event.

This was Hickman's first time participating in this particular event, said Denis Swope, Hickman's marching band director.

Even though Megan Sweeney has been involved with music her whole life, she sometime receives questions about why she is involved in the marching band.

"I mean there's always people who are like, 'Oh, do you do this because of your dad?'" she said. "It's not ... it's fun to have him around and it's a different experience that other people don't get."

However, when father and daughter are at school, it's just like any other student-teacher relationship.

"I find it really cool now," Tom Sweeney said. "But I know that when we look back on it, 10 to 15 years from now, it will be really special ... she never says Mr. Sweeney, though, it's still 'Dad.'"

Even though the rest of the band is not biologically related to the Sweeneys, Megan Sweeney described them as part of her family.

"With marching band we spend so much time together, it really becomes a band family," she said. "It's a different kind of atmosphere that you don't get with a lot of other activities."

The competition was scheduled to last until late Saturday evening. 

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.

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