All Hail the TCHS Field Commander!
MIDDLEBOURNE – A couple of days before last Friday’s football game, there were hat boxes were lined up in precision along the outer edge of the stage in the auditorium at Tyler Consolidated High School.
The Silver Knights’ new Field Commander, Jennifer Lynch, carefully opened one of the boxes that held a shiny black hat that one of these musicians would be wearing along with a new silver and black marching band uniform.
The polished hats and starched uniforms are reminiscent of West Point cadet uniforms that are worn during formal dress marches symbolic of a code that values duty, order and discipline.
Lynch is a quiet, humble unassuming person, but when she places that Field Commander’s hat on her head, she becomes the leader of a group of hardworking musicians who perform in front of large crowds each week.
“I do feel that by being in the band is serving the community because you are providing entertainment with music at football games and parades,” she said.
Lynch said she is not nervous when she is up front on the field at halftime because she knows everyone is paying attention the band.
“I feel like most people pay attention to the band instead of the field commander, so it kind of makes it a little easier on me,” she said. “But the band pays attention to me, so I have to make sure that I know what I’m doing. I’m pretty sure I’m doing everything I can.”
Being a band conductor is not about just pointing at musicians.
“Before you start pointing at people, you have to get the beat down inside your head. Then you go 1-2-3-4 because music mostly goes by beats of four (to set the beat). Once you get this down, then you figure out who is going to play next. Then you point to them. They know that it is time to play.”
When Lynch is not directing the Silver Knights on the podium, she plays the clarinet.
“I joined band because I could learn how to play an instrument and to make music with it,” she said.
Her musical influences include former TCHS Band Director Wayne Smith, her sister Heather Lynch – who played flute in the band while at TCHS, and her piano instructor Polly Carroll.
Lynch listens to jazz, rock and pop music.
“I like to listen to groups like Michael Buble’, OneRepublic, and Nickelback,” she said. “The Star Wars soundtrack is pretty thrilling as well along with Harry Potter and Jurassic Park.”
The daughter of Michael and Barbara Lynch of Friendly, Lynch has top grades and hopes to attend WVU next year and major in aerospace engineering. A senior, this will be her fourth year as a member of the band.
“I’m kind of sad to see it go because I know that our competition days will go by in what’ll seem like five minutes. It’ll go by and I’m sad to see it go,” she said.
For three years, Wayne Smith served as the Silver Knights band director before he retired earlier this year and Matt Jennings took the helm. Under Smith’s direction, TCHS marching bands won many honors.
“I miss Mr. Smith,” Lynch said. “He was always kind of an inspiration for all of us.”
Jennings’ students from A.I. Boreman achieved top honors as well. Lynch offered top praise for Jennings.
“Absolutely a good teacher I believe he will live up to Mr. Smith’s legacy.”
The band is a tight group.
“It’s a family 29 brothers and sisters,” Lynch said. “Maybe Mr. Jennings is kind of like that uncle who makes you do stuff. I think he is an excellent teacher.”
Jennings give credit where credit is due.
“Jenny has done an outstanding job as our field commander,” he said. “She has a great work ethic as she takes what she does very seriously and works to be her best at every practice and every performance. Jenny has stepped in to the role very naturally. It is really neat to see how she has made her conducting style her own; she deserves all the credit.”
Last year’s Field Commander was Julian Work. He is attending small school in Morgantown West Virginia University and marching in the school’s gigantic band. By pure coincidence, Work’s first tour of duty with the Mountaineers was during Saturday’s game.
Work offered some advice to Lynch that may have shaped her persona to better reflect the beat.
“Julian helped me to learn how to express myself more,” Lynch said. “Before, I was stiff. He said I should be loose and maybe look like I’m kind of dancing to the music, but you are still standing straight and everything. If there is a jazzy part, maybe bounce around to the music.”
Lynch said the music is the best part of being the Field Commander.
“I like because you get to actually feel the music,” she said. “If you are just playing it, you only sort of feel it. Once you are up there directing it, you are kind of in control of it. If you do ‘this’ then the music comes up with you. Or if you point at someone, they start to play. It just feels like you are in control of it.”
Not every musical number ends on a high note for any leader.
“Usually, I’m not nervous until right when we go up to the field and I have to stand in line in front of people. I think ‘Aw man, I have to actually stand in front of people,'” Lynch said. “Once I get up onto the podium I turn around and do my salute then I’m fine.”
The band will be performing the same numbers that have made it a dominating force at regional and statewide competitions. Lynch said the plan is not only to build upon that success, but also add new numbers. Star Wars music will remain in a galaxy far, far away.
“We’ll be doing the same stuff that we always do a Spanish opener and a bit of Jazzy music with it,” she said. “‘Paint it black’ (Rolling Stones) is new. We’re doing ‘I can get no satisfaction’ (also Rolling Stones). We’re doing some different stuff like with the drum break.”
The band’s music transcends high school labels.
“I believe that band is sort of a reliever from school stress,” she said. “We are kind of like geeks, in ways of knowing our show and how to do it properly.”
Lynch said she is fortunate to attend Tyler County schools.
“It’s nice to have this opportunity to actually have a marching band and even just a concert band because most schools don’t actually have that,” she said. “It’s nice to express ourselves in music, go outside and play the music while the other sports are listening to it.”