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Patuxent’s March to Glory

High school band tops in Maryland

“Welcome to the hallway nobody knows about,” a student tells me as we make our way toward Patuxent High School’s rehearsal rooms.
    In the hallway, small groups sit in circles, talking and eating lunch. One student lounges against the wall, strumming guitar, while another practices violin in a small alcove.
    This hidden hallway is where the students of the award-winning Patuxent High School band gather every day.
    “They’re great students,” band director Stephen Lane says. As we talk in his office, students come in and out to ask questions, say hello and use the microwave.
    This year, the band placed first in the state championships and third in the nation, achievements so significant that the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate took notice.
    In his first year as band director, Lane never expected his young musicians would rise so high.
    He took over a marching band with a good foundation of students, parents and leaders.
    “My biggest obstacle in the beginning was building relationships,” he says. “But the students are very receptive to change.”
    At first, Lane’s staff connected him with student leaders.
    “We have good student leadership here,” Lane says of the 10 students who head decision-making. “Before every rehearsal, we meet to go over the plan and get feedback.”
    If Lane is running late, the student leaders get the rehearsal going without him.
    The band is self-sufficient, Lane says. Band members do even the fundraising, with their parents’ assisting.
    Thus, like a well-oiled machine, the band marched on to championships. Sprinkle in some dedication and ingenuity, and you have a recipe for first place.
    This year’s theme was Medusa. Many of the band’s formations were snakelike to mimic Medusa’s hair.
    They included theater students as Perseus hunting Medusa. For the finale, Perseus chopped off Medusa’s head behind a large screen. As a final gesture, he presented the head, a prop, to the audience.
    “At this level,” Lane says, “you’re going up against a lot of people doing really neat things.”

Patuxent High School band and first-year director Stephen Lane, far left, were honored at a ceremony at the State Capitol in Annapolis for their first-place state win.

    After this year, almost half of the students in the band will graduate, but Lane isn’t worried. He already sees many underclassmen stepping up to the plate.
    “I have one student who’s out there practicing after I leave,” he says. “It’s great to see them thinking on their own about how they can improve.”