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Sep 3

Louisville marching band builds endurance with yoga, stretching before practice – Canton Repository

Denise Sautters CantonRep.com staff writer

Louisville High School marching band members are high-stepping on the football field.

That is because they are kicking off practices with the soothing sounds of Abby Markiewicz of Plain Township, the school's assistant band director, coaching them through various yoga exercises to help strengthen their breathing, tone muscles and stay focused.

"We started doing a fitness program with the kids last year because we found that what we were asking of them to do on the field was a challenge for them on a daily basis," said band director Kris Bleininger. "We started our morning rehearsals doing 15 to 20 minutes of cardio and stretching exercises and found that helped them with endurance during the 10 to 12 minute show we do on Friday nights."

They added yoga this year to the practices that took place before school started.

"We found that it helped out, but we added yoga this year to help them get stretched out," he said. "This is a part of our program. It isn't a huge piece of our program but it is something we do first thing in the morning."

New awakening

If the seniors in the band had their way, the exercise/yoga portion of band practice would have started their freshman year.

"It is a lot of fun," said Adam Pirie, who plays clarinet. "Every year the competition shows become more physically demanding so it has helped us to get through the program without being completely exhausted."

Even better, the program is keeping him in shape.

"Not everyone is prepared to do sports, but we do physically demanding things, and this has just gotten us all in better shape," he said.

Another clarinet player, Victoria Tritt, said the program energizes her.

"It is difficult to get high schoolers out early in the morning, but this has been great," she said. "Yoga has been great because it helps with your breathing and when you are breathing right, the tone quality really improves."

She has been performing for the past six years, starting in middle school.

Brianna Funderburk plays the piccolo. Her instrument may be small, but, she said, it still takes strength and endurance to get through the programs.

"The program adds a lot to what we do," she said. "I don't think everyone knows what goes into marching. It takes a lot of endurance to do the 12-minute show and the exercises we do help us with our posture, and yoga helps us become more aware of our bodies. This is probably physically tougher than a lot of the freshmen coming in have ever done before. Yoga is tough at first, but you get used to it."

Trumpet player Dylan Hoover said that for him, the yoga is his preference.

"It is really good in the morning," he said. "Yoga calms you down and helps you focus during rehearsal, especially when we are sliding (marching sideways). When we are marching one way, our horns are still facing the sidelines. Yoga centers you so you are more coordinated when you walk, or slide, and play."

Louisville's drum major, Michelle Damron, said, "I am not the most flexible person, but yoga has helped me with my flexibility, my strength and really, helps me study. In the beginning, my arms were very, very week, but now, I have not problem with arm strength. Plus, I am very focused now."

Markiewicz said she didn't really taking yoga seriously herself until earlier this summer.

"I started attending classes at Release Yoga Studio in Green," she said. "Last year during band camp, the students wanted to do some exercises and stretches for their evening rehearsals, so we started doing some basic stretching exercises. During my downtime during the day, I would look up yoga videos online and would ask the students what muscles they wanted help with or pay attention to. I would find those exercises and yoga poses and that would be what I would do with them for about 15 minutes before we started rehearsing."

She said she continued with the program this year because the students really enjoyed it last year.

"I kept up with it this year because the students liked it so much," she said. "I don't think it is just what it does for them physically, but mentally too."

Reach Denise at 330-580-8321 or denise.sautters@cantonrep.com. On Twitter:@dsauttersREP

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Louisville marching band builds endurance with yoga, stretching before practice - Canton Repository

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