Inside the Band Room: Love, Anxiety and Fearless Pop Divas

Contrary to what the movies will tell you, the marching band at Ravenna High School is pretty well respected. This year’s homecoming king and queen were both members. “It definitely helps that we have a small school, because we’ve all known each other our whole lives,” said Trinity Dunch, 17, who plays the trombone. “Everybody knows everybody. Someone you’ve grown up with, you don’t really pick on.”

But there are plenty of other things to worry about. Ravenna, Ohio, is not the sort of place anybody wants to make movies about, Emmanuel Miller, 17, a senior tuba and sousaphone player, said. It’s the sort of place you leave — dwarfed by its next-door neighbor, Kent, home to Kent State University, which has more undergraduates (more than 20,000) than Ravenna has people (just over 11,000).

When Ashley Markle returned to photograph the band students at her alma mater, the most striking difference in her hometown was how anxious everyone seemed: about exams and extracurriculars, dates, college prep, figuring out what’s next. (Ashley, who graduated in 2013, was in Ravenna’s band, too; she played the flute.)

One thing that hasn’t changed: the escape that the band room can offer.

When she was a student at Ravenna, “band didn’t even feel like part of the school, to be honest,” said Ashley. “It felt like I was a part of something special and important. I felt that I could make a difference on a large team of people all striving for something we cared about.”

These days, that team snaps people up early. Julia Stratton, 15, in back, and her girlfriend, Nina Fuller, 16, seated on the floor, have both been playing flute since the fifth grade.

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