At a recent marching band rehearsal at Olentangy Orange High School, senior flutist and dance commander Aliya Myers was putting the student musicians through their paces, working a dance break in New Kids on the Block's "The Right Stuff," with choreography inspired by '90s-era boy-band dances.
Myers is part of a team of students that choreographs and teaches these breaks, fitting with director Ishbah Cox's philosophy of developing student leaders.
"We're developing kids who are the best musicians they can be, but also kids who have leadership skills and social skills," said Cox, who's in his fourth year as band director at Orange. "Students lead in small groups, teaching the drill, and then our younger members aspire to model the leaders."
"It's always trying to find that balance between being serious and concentrating on doing your best on the field, and making it fun," Myers said.
"I'm always doing the best I can and creating an environment where we can all do our best, but it's also about making connections, making friends and making memories," senior sousaphone section leader Andrew Jester said.
Since Cox is in his fourth year at Orange, this year's seniors were freshmen when he started with the band.
"We were freshmen together, and that's notable, but it doesn't make them any more special," Cox said. "Each senior class brings its own unique attributes."
The marching Pioneers -- this year's band numbers 254 members -- perform at football games, community celebrations, festivals and other special events.
The second show the band learned this year was "A Tribute to Boy Bands," with music by the Backstreet Boys, Jonas Brothers and the aforementioned NKOTB. (The season's first show was a space-themed offering; later, the band will perform a show of top tunes from "Guitar Hero.")
"The show's great. It's something that both the students and the crowd can get into," Myers said.
Upcoming performances include the Circleville Pumpkin Show on Sunday, Oct. 13; the Kenton Ridge Band Show at Wittenberg University on Oct. 19; and the Ohio State University Skull Session on Oct. 26.
The band concludes its season with its traditional Friday Night Live weekend of concerts Nov. 22-24.