2013-11-22 / Community

Marching to the beat

By Ann Fisher
Contributing writer/copy editor


Calvin Stanley and Elizabeth Small Calvin Stanley and Elizabeth Small SOUTH PORTLAND – Calvin Stanley hated practicing the piano when he was younger, but now all that effort has paid off in spades.

“I thought it was a waste of time,” Stanley said. “Now I play 10 different instruments.

“Mom always told me I would thank her for it.”

Thanks to his musical talent – inherited from mom and honed as well – Stanley will take a trip to New York City to perform as part of the Great American Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Stanley and another South Portland High School senior, Elizabeth Small, each successfully auditioned to perform at the nationally broadcast event Thursday, Nov. 28.

The pair will fly to New York the Saturday before the parade to practice with the 185 musicians and 40 dancers/flag bearers who were chosen from all over the country. They will also tour the city and see a Broadway performance of “Matilda.”

Small is the captain of the school’s color guard and will dance with flags in the parade, while Stanley will play tuba. Unbeknownst to the other, each teen sent audition “tapes” to try out for the Great American Marching Band.

“Funny thing is, they didn’t know they were both auditioning until they both announced they had been selected,” said Small’s mother, Paula Small, in an email.

“I watched it last year and thought it would be cool,” said Small, who went online to find out the details about auditioning.

Stanley said a friend told him about the opportunity last year. He quickly made a recording and sent it off the same night. Pieces have to be between three and 10 minutes long, he said.

Small was born in Irving, Texas, but moved to Maine with her family when she was a toddler. She has danced almost as long, she said, and took lessons for years in tap, ballet, Irish step, ballroom, hip hop and jazz. Small stopped taking formal lessons when she joined the color guard in seventh grade. “There’s a lot of commitment with time” in color guard, Small said. When asked what her favorite kind of dance is, Small replied, “That’s a hard one,” adding she leans toward modern dance and ballet because that’s the main type of dancing performed in color guard.

“I really like to dance,” said Small, but her passion is fashion. Small is considering Baylor University in Waco, Texas and F.I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York City to study fashion marketing and management. She recently sewed her first piece of clothing – a skirt – with her grandmother.

The Macy’s parade is just the latest in a string of impressive gigs for Stanley. He played in the president’s inaugural parade in 2012 and, for the past two years, Stanley has toured with the Boston Crusaders drum corps. Playing in the competitive leg of Drum Corps International meant Stanley has visited 43 states. Stanley plays guitar at Grace Family Church in Waterboro, as well as bass with the jazz band at South Portland High School. It was while he was playing drums for the church band that Stanley decided to learn guitar after he saw video with “some cool guitar parts.”

He has played tuba about five years. Stanley recalls being asked what instrument he played by the band teacher at Memorial Middle School, to which he replied, “keyboard.” The band teacher asked if he would try the baritone. The baritone, Stanley explained, is much smaller than a tuba and higher in tone. The next year he was asked to play the tuba in the school’s marching band.

“I don’t care; why not,” Stanley recalled saying.

Stanley volunteers at the soup kitchen on Preble Street in Portland in his spare time. He also participates in community clean ups with the South Portland High School Interact Club.

When asked if she was nervous about the upcoming performance, Small replied quickly in the affirmative.

“It’s very nerve-wracking before a show,” she said.

Stage fright must not take much of a toll on Small, however: South Portland earned a gold for the eighth year in a row in the Maine Band Directors’ Association marching band finals held Nov. 2 at Thornton Academy in Saco.

As an experienced performer, Stanley shrugged off the idea of stage fright. He was more concerned about giving his parents credit where credit is due.

“I want to thank my parents for supporting me so much,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”

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