When senior Jarak Gutierrez first joined Winter Percussion, he was just trying to help out the program by filling a spot. However throughout the season, he quickly fell in love with it and wanted to continue to be a part of it.
“I definitely wanted to come back because of how much fun I had that one season. I just kept coming back because it was just a love that I had for the arts, and I thought it was a great way to build my skills,” Gutierrez said.
Lawrence Township Winter Percussion has had a successful season. They’ve placed first or second in all of their competitions. They also placed first at Power Regionals and second at State. This weekend, they are headed to Dayton, Ohio to compete in the National Championship. Their first performance is on Thursday, April 11 at 4:50 p.m. Their performances on Friday and Saturday will depend on how well they do at their previous competitions. Through it is only his first year at LN, percussion director Alexander Entin has quickly found his place with this group.
“It’s my first year here as one of the percussion directors, but it’s been very welcoming. Everyone has been awesome. The kids are so talented. They’re wonderful to work with, and we’ve done really well at all of our competitions,” Entin said.
Entin has worked for several different schools in the past, which has taught him a lot when it comes to percussion. Through his experience so far at LN, he has found that the Winter Percussion group is one of the best groups he has ever worked with.
“I have a very diverse background in percussion. I’ve taught schools that have not very many students, schools that have a whole bunch of students. I’d say this one is like right in the middle. It’s not like too big, it’s not too small. But as far as talent goes, I’d say it’s one of the more experienced groups, more talented groups, one of the hardest working groups, I’ve gotten to work for,” Entin said.
Junior Carmen Vehslage joined Winter Percussion because she had several friends who are a part of it. Her friends encouraged her to join through sharing the experience they had in the program.
“I wanted to join because I knew a lot of people who were in it. They only had positive things to say about it, so it felt like something that I would really enjoy,” Vehslage said.
Junior Kyndil Butrum-Griffith also joined because of her friends. She has found that everyone is welcoming, and she has developed strong friendships with the other members.
“Everyone is practically family. It is just a really fun way to be in a community. I joined because I knew a lot of people in there, and they were nice. It just looked like it would be fun,” Butrum-Griffith said.
Gutierrez has found that Winter Percussion has a unique environment that sparks a lot of close friendships. These friendships aid them in their competitions and help them succeed.
“Winter Percussion definitely has this comradery about it that’s just not found anywhere else. The closest thing is Marching Band, but Winter Percussion just seems more intimate with each other, and you build a lot stronger friendships. Just going to competitions and performing with your friends is something that is indescribable at some points and just a fun time,” Gutierrez said.
Winter Percussion has a lengthy and demanding practice schedule. They start their season in November and practice three to four times a week after school. On Saturdays that they don’t have competitions, they practice from 2-9 p.m. On competitions days, they can arrive at the school as early as 6 a.m. depending on how far away the competition is. While they don’t rehearse over winter break, they do have practices over spring break. All of this time and hardwork has contributed to their success. Besides all of the practices, Vehslage and the other members mentally prepare for the competitions in order to focus and perform well.
“Aside from some traditional things we do before shows, we all just like really focus in and try to think about our show and everything to make sure that we are as prepared as we can be,” Vehslage said.
Last year, Winter Percussion placed sixth at nationals. Butrum-Griffith is hoping to improve this year and make it into the top three.
“[I hope] to get in the top three. It is what I’ve wanted. I don’t know that it’ll happen, but we were close last year,” Butrum-Griffith said.
Entin hopes that they will receive national recognition this year and build on their success in the future.
“We’re hoping to get up there with the big groups, the great groups that are known nationally. Lawrence is already known nationally, which is awesome. We at least want to stay in there and get better every single year,” Entin said.
Gutierrez believes that this team has the capability to succeed at nationals this year. He hopes that they will make it to finals, so they can have one last great performance before the end of the season.
“I think that we definitely have the talent and the notoriety to make a statement this year among the nation and in this world of music. I think making finals is just a fun thing for everybody and that finals performance you hold nothing back,” Gutierrez said.