For Whom The Band Tolls: Natrona County Marching Band Enters Metallica Competition

The 100-member Natrona High School marching band is the only Wyoming band entered in a nationwide contest to translate heavy metal group Metallica’s songs into an on-field performance.

Dale Killingbeck

November 27, 20234 min read

The Natrona County High School marching band performs Metallica's "Lux Aeterna."
The Natrona County High School marching band performs Metallica's "Lux Aeterna." (Via YouTube)

CASPER — Just because they’re a marching band doesn’t mean the musicians that make up the Natrona County High School marching Mustangs can’t rock their butts off.

You won’t hear the NCHS 100-member marching crew blasting out “Malagueña” or a hokey arrangement of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” This year’s band has already covered The Beach Boys, Rage Against the Machine and 1970s disco legend ABBA.

But its greatest challenge is to achieve rock-god status as the Mustangs go full-on metal with a “Seek and Destroy” mission to shred Metallica’s “Lux Aeterna.”

The performance is part of a marching band contest sponsored by Metallica, the four-member ultimate amped-up, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners masters of metal. Winners receive cash prizes, and the Casper-based band is the only one representing the Cowboy State.

“We’re the only marching band in the state that does marching band like we do,” said director Shawn Weis. “We do a new show for every home football game, and we thought this would fit with what we do very well. We try to function as a college band and add atmosphere to a football game.”

Now it’s up to online voters to decide if these Mustangs are also Metallica puppet-masters.

National Competition

The band’s performance is in competition with 101 other bands from across the country for the potential for $15,000 from Metallica’s foundation. High school and college bands are eligible, and the high school bracket is broken into three categories based on band size.

Weis, along with assistant band director Zane Romanek, had limited time to choose one of 13 songs made available with marching band charts and put the performance on the field.

Students and directors chose “Lux Aeterna” after listening through the available catalog.

Watch on YouTube

Challenging Drums

The opening of the song was especially challenging for the band’s 30-member percussion section.

“The music itself was pretty difficult. We had two weeks to prepare it all,” Weis said. “The percussion stuff was really advanced. We were one of the only ones who played it like it was intended to be.”

The band, which includes 70 wind instruments in addition to the percussion section, does not use music sheets when it performs. Everything is memorized from the notes to the steps, turns and reverses.

The key is practice — so much practice that it all just becomes automatic.

“It’s a pretty tricky thing that we have to work with kids over time,” Weis said. “There is enough going on that a lot of it has to be automatic. There are so many things going on in their brains and they have to focus on one element at a time.”

Short Timetable

The hard thing was that while the band had two weeks of classes with 90 minutes to work on the music, it only had one two-and-a-half-hour opportunity to work out the choreography on a field because the football teams also needed to practice.

Romanek shot the video at the band’s performance during halftime of a football game, and the following Monday they did the performance again using a few more camera angles. He then edited the footage into the what the world can see on YouTube.

Entries will be judged on performance, originality and musical ability.

As part of the judging process, the public gets to vote on the best performance. That voting began Nov. 17 and continues through the end of the year. The winner will receive the “Fan Favorite” honor. In addition to the public votes, a panel of qualified judges will determine five finalists in the high school band and collegiate categories.

Metallica Will Judge

Finally, members of Metallica will take those finalists and determine winners based on the same criteria.

The high school winners will receive $15,000 and the fan favorite $10,000.

Weiss said if the band wins, the money will come in handy.

“That would definitely go into the band program,” he said. “Marching bands are expensive to keep operating.”

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at

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Dale Killingbeck


Killingbeck is glad to be back in journalism after working for 18 years in corporate communications with a health system in northern Michigan. He spent the previous 16 years working for newspapers in western Michigan in various roles.