Baton Twirler Brings New Twist, 'Flair' To Marching Rams' Performances
A freshman baton twirler is bringing a new twist and new look to the halftime shows and on-field performances of the Glenwood Community High School Marching Band.
Ella Marvel is believed to be the Marching Rams’ first baton twirler in 40 years.
The daughter of Jeremy and Katy Marvel has been twirling batons since she began taking classes nine years ago as a 6-year-old at Sue’s Stepper-ettes studio in Omaha. She remembers the exact day and moment she decided she was going to become a twirler.
“I went to one of the Iowa football games and I saw their Golden Girl and I instantly knew that I wanted to be like her,” Ella recalled. “I got my picture with her and I told my mom I was quitting basketball and everything else.”
Ella’s mom also has a vivid memory of that day.
“She had been in dance for three years - she saw the Golden Girl (Whittney Seckar-Anderson) and immediately told me she wanted to quit dance and ‘do that.’ She didn’t even know what ‘that’ was,” Katy Marvel said. “She talked non-stop during the game about quitting dance immediately and starting to learn to twirl. (She) talked the entire way home to Glenwood! She wouldn’t stop.”
Upon their return home, Ella and her mom did an internet search for baton twirling studios in Omaha and Sue’s Stepper-ettes was the name that came up.
“I decided to take her to try one lesson,” Katy Marvel said. “When we walked in for that lesson, I knew we would be spending a lot of time driving to and from baton because her face just lit up like she was finally at home.”
Ella started with a beginner’s class but quickly showed that she possessed the coordination and natural ability to twirl a baton.
“I instantly got the hang of it,” Ella said. “I got put on their national team two years after I started and I’ve been on the national team for six years. The national team goes to Notre Dame each year and competes. I didn’t go two years because of COVID.”
The Stepper-ettes’ national team is made up of twirlers from various age groups. During her time with the team, Ella has won four national titles. She makes the 45-60 minute drive to the studio three times a week for two workouts with the team and a private lesson with her coach. At home, she practices on the driveway. She works out with her batons at the Mills County YMCA during cold weather months.
“I’ve always been passionate about it. It’s just something unique that I always thought was cool and I just got the hang of it really well,” she said.
Nationally, baton twirling has become somewhat of a lost art over the years and a rare commodity for high school marching bands outside of metropolitan areas.
GCHS Director Of Bands David Clark said the majority of schools in Iowa that have twirlers are in large schools that have a twirling coach in their town.
“I’ve never had one in a marching band before,” Clark said. “It really doesn’t change things (for the band) too much, it just adds a little extra flair.
“She’s very talented, but she’s never been on the field with a marching band, She’s kind of learning as we’re going and I’ve never had one (twirler) so I’m kind of learning as we go. We’re kind of learning together as we go and I think everything is working out.”
Ella attended grade school and middle school at Fremont-Mills. Until this year, her only experience twirling with a band was on the parade route in middle school. As the featured twirler with the Marching Rams, she technically works with the color guard but is on her own when it comes to selecting a routine.
“It’s been difficult because my coaches at the studio have always just told us what we’re doing. I’ve been on my own here so I’ve just done my own routines but it’s been really fun,” she said. “The band members have welcomed me and Mr. Clark has been every encouraging and supportive of the things I do. If he sees something he likes, he’ll tell me ‘good job’ or “that looked really cool, do it again.’”
Ella said some of the band members have already given her some nicknames, including The Thrower and Twirler Bird.
During her performance, it isn’t uncommon for Ella to be twirling multiple batons at one time, similar to a juggler.
“It takes a lot of focus and hand-eye coordination. If you don’t have that, you won’t be successful,” she said. “You have to be really focused and patient. It is pressure but I have learned to handle my stress with twirling and always just ease into it. If I drop it, I’ll just smile more.”
Ella has aspirations of twirling in college some day, ideally as a Golden Girl at the University of Iowa.
“Iowa has a full ride for all the years you’re there to twirl. That’s kind of my goal – to twirl at Iowa but it will take a lot to get there,” she said. “I’m just learning as a freshman. I’m just preparing now and next year I’m going to push really hard to see what I have to do because they only have one featured twirler and she’s holding many world titles right now. She’s really good.”
Ella plans to continue twirling throughout her high school days with her team in Omaha and the marching band at GCHS.
“I’ve met a lot of people and it’s just been a good experience so far,” she said.
Marching Rams’ Upcoming Competitions
Oct. 1 - Clarinda Band Jamboree.
Oct. 8 - Loess Hills Field Fest (Glenwood) and Valley Fest (Des Moines).
Oct. 15 - Iowa State Marching Band Competition (Glenwood).