It’s not only the title of Nixa Crimson Corps’ 2019 marching show, it is a powerful message: “Thorns Remain.”

“The main idea is that our actions matter, and they’ll always remain with you for the rest of your life,” Senior band member Tristan Slatkavitiz told the Christian County Headliner News. 

Senior band member Mason Miller said “Thorns Remain” is about unkind words, too. According to Director Craig Finger, the show’s message isn’t obvious, though it does have a darkness to it that he thinks grabs attention. 

“We’d done pretty happy shows for the past two or three years, and we decided to change the pace,” Finger said, noting last year’s show, “Birds of a Feather.” 

“I heard the rumblings of the kids wanting to do something a little darker to change things up,” Finger said.

When he told his students what the show was going to be about, the director said they loved it. 

“The kids just went crazy, which was a little disturbing,” Finger chuckled, “but whatever. The show is a gateway to a conversation about being kinder and more understanding. It’s about realizing that the negative things you say or do really stick around.”

So far, the show has been successful. Last weekend, the band took first place at Branson High School’s Marching Invitational, taking awards that recognized musical quality, visuals and color guard. Perhaps the Crimson Corps set a precedent for the rest of the season when it won a highly competitive contest Sept. 21, at Blue Springs South High School. Finger arranged for the band to attend as preparation for a larger competition in Iowa. 

“We’ve never gone to contest that early, but the whole reason we did was because we knew we had that Northern Iowa contest that was looming, and we wanted to get our feet wet before we went there,” Finger said. 

The band traveled the across northern state line for the Sept. 28 competition. It is the farthest the band has ever traveled for a marching contest. 

“To grow,” Finger said, “I think you have to get away from the familiar.”

Big competition

Finger said the Nixa Crimson Corps showed up in Iowa ready to show what it was made of. It took ninth place overall against some of the top bands from eight different states. 

“There was a school from Illinois that we beat. They didn’t make finals. They missed it by half a point. We beat them out just by a little bit, and last year, I think they were ranked 29th in the nation at Grand Nationals,” Finger said. “The whole time we were there I was really, really humbled.”

Finger normally doesn’t get too emotional at competitions, he says, but when he saw his son after the performance—he’s a sophomore who plays in the band’s drumline—he had what he called a “dad moment.”

“I tend to miss a lot of the dad moments, because I’m in the director moments,” he explained. “I have to force myself to remember, ‘Take a moment. Watch your son.’”

Seniors Slatkavitiz and Miller said the band’s experience in Iowa was great, regardless of their rank. 

“I think it’s really important for us to go and see other bands,” Slatkavitiz said. “It’s the experience of watching and learning all the other groups that are there, getting their ideas and seeing what we can implement.”

“It motivates us to want to perform like other bands,” Miller added. “I think that’s really important.”

As seniors, Slatkavitiz and Miller said this marching season is especially important to them. 

“It’s exciting to have such an awesome show for our last show.” Miller said. Slatkavitiz, on the other hand, described this time as being a weird one. 

“Our last band camp was in July. It’s about to be our last couple football games, our last competition,” he said. “It’s definitely rough to realize that we have three weeks left to take it all in. Then, your high school marching seasons are pretty much over. It’s sad, but it’s also a happy accomplishment.”

More to come

The band this weekend will perform at its last competition of the season, the St. Louis Bands of America Super Regional. Finger hopes that the same elements that have helped so far will boost their final performances. One of those elements is visuals. 

“There’s a lot of visuals in the show this year,” Finger said. Having marching band visuals means the inclusion of unique body movements by band members, in addition to unique drill—that is, the movements the band makes across and up and down the field. 

Finger thanks Crimson Corps assistant director Mary Duerkop for the unique movements in “Thorns Remain.”

“She has a fearless approach. She has experience in drum corps,” Finger said. “We tell her, ‘Hey, let’s add a visual here and here,’ and she just jumps in. We lean on her for that stuff.”

In addition, unique technologies such as the Ultimate Drill Book app has allowed the band to streamline their drill work. Each band member has a unique set of drill that assigns them a place on the field at all times. With UDB, students can see this drill on their phones, instead of keeping it in notebooks, and watch how their spot on the field will change movement to movement. 

“The kids’ music is on there, too, if they want to hear it,” Finger said. “It’s pretty great.”

Finger said it’s the message, however, that keep his students going. He hopes “Thorns Remain” will stick with his students. 

“I think the kids have to believe in what their story is for them to perform it,” he said. “I’m a big believer that we have three audiences that we perform for. Obviously, the judges. Obviously, our home crowd—everybody in the stands. But our No. 1 audience is ourselves.”

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