AUBURN — There was little marching Saturday night at Edward Little High School — but there was much music. 

Rather than strutting around the football field in wing formation, heart shapes or circling each other, a dozen marching bands from Maine and New Hampshire gathered in the school’s dry gymnasium, out of the reach of drenching rains.

Musicians clad in their colorful uniforms marched in place or stood still on the gym floor, focused instead on their instruments’ musical strains that echoed through the halls of the school interior.

Bands included color guards who performed intricate movements, while twirling flags, rifles and sparkling batons, added to the delight of the hundreds of spectators who packed the gym’s bleachers.

After going on the road for more than a month, the EL band stayed at home to play host at Saturday night’s show.

The event was the fifth show of the season in as many weeks, said ELHS Red Eddies Marching Band Director Bill Buzza, who is in his fifth year at the school.

The final show comes next weekend at Thornton Academy in Saco, he said.

The bands compete against themselves more than against each other, seeking to improve on past performances, Buzza said.

A panel of five judges rated the bands on various criteria, including the drum major and percussion. The highest score a band can earn is a 5. The judges’ comments help the bands improve in areas of weakness. Although the Maine Band Directors Association is in charge of the season’s series of events, three New Hampshire bands are generally invited.

The ELHS marching band played four songs Saturday on the theme of “Hits Through the Ages,” including, “Play that Funky Music,” “Billie Jean,” “Hallelujah,” and “We Found Love.”

Some of Maine’s high school marching bands play only at parades or sporting events. About a dozen Maine schools participate in marching band shows like Saturday’s, Buzza said. ELHS’s marching band also plays at football games, parades and local events, he said.

Buzza said the song selection begins in February, but isn’t finalized until May, when practice starts in earnest.

“Tonight, we’ve really reached our peak for the season,” Buzza said of the band’s Saturday performance.

Thirty students comprise the band, including one from Auburn Middle School, one from Lewiston High School and one from Leavitt Area High School in Turner.

Although Buzza’s title is band director, the marching band is conducted and led by Drum Major Jamison Pooler, who took time out for the alto saxophone solo on “Billie Jean.”

Jamison, 18, is a senior who also plays in the school’s jazz band. He leads the marching band, keeping time and conducting.

Donnie Paterson, also a senior, plays snare drum. He’s been in the marching band for six years.

A former lineman on the football team, he joined the marching band after breaking his arm during play. His parents forbade him from staying on the football team, so he now performs on Walton Field in a different uniform.

“Sometimes I miss it, but playing music is what I like more now,” he said.

He’s headed to college next year, and said he expects to continue with his band experience.

“The community should know more about us because we’re a really great opportunity for kids to have,” he said. “It’s a great way to learn discipline, but also a great way to connect with other people. It’s a great support network for kids going into high school.”

Zach Boyd, like Peterson, also heads up the percussion section.

“Music has been important to me because it has pointed me to what I want to do after high school,” he said.

He plans to pursue a college degree in education, he said.

Buzza said the marching band is more than just a collection of young musicians.

“We take great pride in putting on a great performance and representing the school,” he said. “We encourage other kids in middle or elementary school that are in band to think about joining the marching band then they become old enough. We hope to build the program and expand it.”

In the past couple of weeks, the band has scored 3 out of 5, Buzza said. He was hoping for some 4s on Saturday, he said. By the end of the night, the band had scored 4s in color guard, music and general effect, with an overall rating of 3.

If you have any photos of the marching band competition at Edward Little High School from Saturday night that you’d like to share, please send them to [email protected] The Sun Journal will display them on its digital and social media.

Overall scores for marching bands showing at Edward Little High School on Saturday were:

• Sanford, 4;

• Salem, New Hampshire, 4;

• Somersworth, New Hampshire, 3;

• Marshwood, 4;

• Wells, 3;

• South Portland, 5;

• Lawrence, 4;

• Westbrook, 5:

• Dover, New Hampshire, 5;

• Old Orchard Beach, 4; and

• Edward Little, 3.

The University of Maine’s marching band performed, but was not judged.

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