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These Vikings can really wail ... in their own way

North Kitsap sousaphone player Scott Breitbarch cheers the Vikings’ football team in their game against the  Bremerton Knights at Poulsbo on Oct. 17.  - Jim Bryant/Special to the Herald
North Kitsap sousaphone player Scott Breitbarch cheers the Vikings’ football team in their game against the Bremerton Knights at Poulsbo on Oct. 17.
— image credit: Jim Bryant/Special to the Herald

POULSBO — The Grateful Dead once sang “... I can’t stop for nothing I’m just playin’ in the band,” and play on they did.

Well, they may not be as organic and folksy as the Dead, but the 125 members — up from last year’s 85 — of the North Kitsap Viking pep band jam just as hard and entertain the masses on any given Friday night. Just like the 1960s wouldn’t be complete without the Dead, a home Viking football game wouldn’t be the same without the marching band.

Game nights are a five-hour affair for the marching band. They keep the crowd groovin’, the cheerleaders dancin’, the football players tacklin’ and the entire atmosphere at the North Kitsap Stadium rockin’.

But unbeknownst to most, the Viking pep band uses halftime performances, similar to the dazzling display they gave on Friday night during the Vikes homecoming football game, as practice for their own competitive schedule.

“The uniqueness of our program is our halftime show is based on the competitions we do,” said band director Susan Peters. North’s band performs on a high school circuit with 20 to 30 other marching bands throughout the Northwest. Peters said the Viking band is among the top two percent of the regions high school bands, as there’s not many other programs that can do what North does. “We’ve set a pretty rigorous standard of excellence to compete at the level we do.”

The band participates in three competitions. On Sept. 27 they traveled to Silverdale for the Peninsula Classic Marching Band Competition and placed second in the 3A division.

They’re off to the University of Oregon on Nov. 1 and Auburn on Nov. 8. They’ll also perform in the Veterans’ Day parade while in Auburn.

It’s practice, practice, practice to reach a level of performance that compliments their motto: “In pursuit of excellence.”

They attended a week-long camp in August, which ran 12 hours a day.

Throughout the year they practice an hour each day at school and several take private lessons and continue tuning their instrumental performances at home. During fall performance time they practice after school on the field anywhere from two to six hours per week.

Rain, wind or cold they dress for the occasion, as Peters directs with a megaphone. And Peters is fierce, shouting out she doesn’t want to see any shivers during football games.

“I’m always here (NKHS band room). My parents don’t see me during this time of year because I’m either at band, school or work,” said co-drum major Megan Webster, who’s been playing the flute since the fifth grade. “It doesn’t stop. You go home and you practice or you listen to recordings.”

But that’s just what it takes to memorize all their notes and 46 pages of designs for their field shows.

“It’s a huge big deal,” Peters said. “That’s why they put so much time and effort into what they do.”

The students chose the competition and therefore halftime show theme — Roman mythology — and the program features selections from the Holst Suite entitled “The Planets.”

When they put it all together it’s truly quite impressive, but then again Peters said they know their jobs and to get 125 kids all doing the same thing is “very commendable.”

The drumline wears Roman hats, the co-drum majors — Webster and Christine Parker — look like Roman goddesses in long white, flowing dresses and the 10 person color guard, which flips guns and dances around with flags, look like Roman royalty.

When they’re just jamin’ in the band and not practicing for competitions they like to play “Hey Baby,” (by Bruce Channel, made famous in “Dirty Dancing”) because they get to sing and “mess around with it,” Parker said.

“The football players like it, too,” she said. Parker plays the flute, an instrument she’s played since the sixth grade. “We have a heck of a lot of fun doing it.”

The fun makes fighting the cold on Friday nights and logging insane practice hours worth it for these talented musicians. Band is their life, their family. Just ask them, and they’ll say they can’t “stop for nothing,” because they love music and playin’ in the band.

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