FARMINGTON — Participating in both marching band and football has kept one Piedra Vista High School student busy with late nights and early mornings as he chases two of his passions.
Sophomore Joel Sutherland started playing saxophone in eighth grade at Heights Middle School. After friends encouraged him to try out for football this year, he did.
"I had my friends telling me I should, 'You're big dude, you should play football,'" said Sutherland, who is now an offensive lineman for the school's football team. "So I was like, 'OK, I'll go to two-a-days,' and I liked it."
Practice schedules for both activities are hectic.
"It's like having two families," Sutherland said. "You got to go back and forth."
Friday night football games create a unique situation. Sutherland suits up in his pads and helmet for games. And he wears his football uniform as he plays his saxophone during the band's halftime performances.
"I'm there if they need me to go in, and whenever halftime happens, I march in my pads with my other family and run back into the locker room with all my brothers," Sutherland said.
His mother, Traci Neff, said it's been interesting to watch her son stick with both band and football.
Neff described her son's schedule on Mondays as crazy. She said he leaves the house at 6:45 a.m. for marching band practice before school starts and returns home at 9:30 p.m. if the band holds an evening rehearsal.
"It's hard to find time. Sometimes, I'm really up late for homework, and I still don't have the best of grades," Sutherland said.
He said it's not too difficult, though, to switch between sports and music.
"Band comes pretty easy to me, and football comes a little more difficult," Sutherland said. "There are tons of components to both, but since I started football later, it doesn't come as quick. There's more thinking involved with that. When it's band time, it's one of those things that comes kind of quickly."
Elizabeth Elliott, Piedra Vista's director of bands, said Sutherland spends more hours at school than any other band member, but he handles it well.
"He's shown maturity beyond his years," Elliott said. "We're really proud for him doing all that he is doing."
Elliott also said that Sutherland has been a great recruiter for the marching band program.
"The middle school kids see him at football games. They think, 'I can do sports and music. I don't have to choose one,'" Elliott said. "I already told Joel how much of a role model he is for kids of all ages. I'm happy he found that balance."