On New Year's Eve, when the rest of the teenage world will be either partying or attempting to do so in spite of parental admonishments, Anthony Herman will be conducting the Ironwood Ridge High School Marching Band in front of a crowd of 50,000 at Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl Game. It will be cold and foggy, as San Francisco is during the winter, and pretty crowded: the Nighthawks band is one of seven who've been invited to play during the half-time show.
"But it will be a very cool thing," said Herman, 16, adding that he thinks playing in a nationally televised bowl game "is a good trade-off" when compared to staying in Oro Valley and ringing in the New Year. The game generally matches Western Athletic Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
The band has the permission of IRHS Principal Sam McClung and the blessing of the Amphitheater Public School Governing Board to go to the game, provided they can pay for all the expenses, said director Mark Hodge.
Last year's band had 47 members, but enrollment figures show this year's marchers will number closer to 80. Hodge estimates it will cost about $500 per student for the trip. That's $40,000 members need to raise for travel, lodging, meals and tickets to the game.
Apropos of musicians, instead of doing the typical cookie-dough, car wash or candy sales fund-raisers, the Nighthawks Band Ambassadors - the booster club for the school's band and orchestra program - is hosting a daylong rock concert on Aug. 2.
"Rock the Ridge" will feature six bands, including Tongue Dried Sun, a mostly-cover heavy rock band well known throughout the Southwest. Jonas Hunter, program director for KLPX, will host the nine-hour concert. The other bands playing are all some genre of rock: two from IRHS, another made up of CDO alumni and two composed of "older" musicians.
"The idea is to keep the music alive in the kids throughout their lives," said Jackie Devery, vice president of the booster club. "We've got high school kids playing, high school graduates playing and parents in rock bands, still playing music and loving it. Tie that in with KLPX's focus on classic rock plus music of the day and it is all to keep the music going in the kids."
The doors open at noon, and the concert, held in the Ironwood Ridge auditorium, starts at 12:30 p.m., Devery said. Ten dollars gets concert-goers a wrist band allowing them to come and go throughout the day, which will start with the teen bands, weave through the adult bands and end with Tongue Dried Sun taking the stage at 7:30 p.m.
The IRHS marching band was actually invited to play at the bowl game in December when Hodge was at a band convention in Chicago, "but I didn't want to start fund-raising until we had permission from the (governing) board," he said.
"I'd done some bowl games with (Barry) Goldwater High School in Phoenix, the Gator Bowl in Florida, for example, and the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and you do build a reputation," he said. "The companies are at the conventions, and I ran into one of the guys I worked with in the past and he asked what Goldwater was up to and I told him I was with a new band now and I happened to have a tape of our state marching festival competition and he asked to see it."
Hodge taught marching band and orchestra at Goldwater High School for seven years before coming to IRHS three years ago.
That tape got the Nighthawks an invitation from Bowl Games of America, the national company that sponsors the entertainment portion of bowl games, to travel to the Diamond Walnut Bowl.
bands who are invited never get to go because they can't raise the funds," said Hodge.
Devery said Hodge told her that he wanted to be "the first band to get to a bowl game without having to do a car wash," and that was one of the reasons the boosters came up with the concert fund-raiser.
Not all the money raised will go to the San Francisco trip, however, "because we support the entire band and orchestra program," said Devery.
"I don't know for sure, because it will depend on what the director thinks we need for all the programs, but I think probably 60 or 70 percent will go to the bowl game trip and 30 percent to the band and orchestra program for other needs," she said.
Herman, one of two drum majors for the band, said he is "very excited" about the trip because the band will compete against other bands before the bowl game performance "and we'll see how we do against bands outside of Arizona."
"We'll see bands we don't usually get to see and have a chance to compare ourselves to them, at the same time we are having fun," Herman said. "Last year was basically our inaugural year, the first year we competed, and we did pretty well, but this year we'll do even better and by December, we'll really be ready to take them on."
Hodge said the band would spend a couple of days practicing in San Francisco before the field show competition. If they are rated the top band, the Nighthawks will perform alone during the pre-game show, televised by ESPN. All the bands, regardless of rating in the field show competition, will perform during the half-time show at the game.
"I don't know how ESPN is with band coverage, especially after pre-game, but maybe people will be able to see us," Hodge said. "We'll be in our school uniforms, but the station may not even show the bands. If we were talking about BET (Black Entertainment Tele-vision) it might be a different thing, they really cover marching bands down South."
During the rehearsals for the half-time show, the high school bands will meet the college bands from the two teams in the game, Hodge said.
"On Dec. 30 and 31 we'll all be together to rehearse to make (the show) something 50,000 people can watch," Hodge said. "It's a great opportunity on a number of levels because they'll get to meet the college players (and) … nationally known conductors from the Bowl Games of America will conduct with the drum majors from each band helping out."
Hodge said he is very glad the Nighthawks got an invitation to a bowl game after only one year of competition, but he's not surprised. At state competition last year, the band, which had no seniors, received an "excellent" rating and "best drum major" award in its division. They competed against 35 other bands and received an overall rating of 88 out of 100.
"I kind of knew we'd get invited when (the company representative) asked to see the tape," he said. "The kids really had been working hard all year and had done well. You kind of like to reward them for their work and these trips are the reward."
Devery said she hopes everyone in the community comes to the fund-raising concert to support the students' hard work.
"It will be a great day, with all the music, and we'll have concessions featuring Mama's Pizza and Guitar Center is donating the PA for the day and we'll also be collecting donations for the Mount Lemmon Fire Department, so it is basically a community event," she said.
In addition to Tongue Dried Sun, the other bands playing at the Aug. 2 concert are: A Kindled Apparition, Missouri's Tide, Our Cure The Rocketship, The Fallen Rain, Wasted Aces and Dirty Nellie.