Area high school bands gearing up

For Director Doug Maschue, the size of the Waterford High School Marching Band takes a backseat to the spirit and student growth that he tries to instill in its members.

“Regardless if it was a 100-piece band or a 20-piece band, seeing the student growth along the way is the best part, and it’s also the challenge,” he said.

Many schools like Waterford High School with small overall enrollment turn out bands of proportional size, but no matter the size local high school bands are ready to bring on the sound for the upcoming football season.

“We’ve been practicing in the evening every day after school for three nights a week,” Maschue said.

Waterford’s band boasts 25 members, up from 18 from the previous year, with student musicians from seventh to 12th grade.

“Everyone takes pride in the band,” Maschue said. “We’re at the parades, football games and competitions, and the (community) supports us through fundraisers and they like to see us perform.”

Maschue said it takes a community to support high school bands, which often have to push and work harder for funding in the face of budget cuts.

“Right now one of our biggest fundraisers is the Marietta Band Bucks Discount Cards,” said Christine Lisk, a member of the Marietta High School band boosters. “They are $10 each and offer discounts to over 50 different local businesses.”

Eighth-grader Morgan Bauerbach is on Marietta High School’s Wall of Sound color guard in her first year with the band.

“I am nervous, but so far since we had our first performance, everything went well,” she said.

Marietta boosters host a variety of events, from concerts to flower sales to restaurant fundraisers, all to help fund groups like the Wall of Sound, which is currently practicing for an upcoming season of football games.

“We just came back from band camp last week, and we just had our post-camp performance Saturday, so we’re ready,” said Marietta Director Casey Mercer.

Marietta has about 86 students in the marching band, which is up from several years past where numbers were in the mid-50s and 60s, but about the same as last year.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s still teaching, there’s just more to teach, so it’s a bit different,” Mercer said.

Mercer is in his first year as band director after previously serving in the same position at Fort Frye, which has about 23 members in its band.

“I love the sense of companionship,” said Fort Frye junior Lauren Eakle, who plays the alto saxophone. “It’s like being a family and really working together for a common cause.”

Eakle said on bad weather days the band goes hard to work on fine-tuning music for its upcoming shows, and spends good weather on the field, practicing steps and perfecting formations.

“When I first joined marching band I could join in seventh grade, and there was mostly winds,” she said. “Now we have more brass than woodwinds.”

Eakle said the group is especially looking forward to its new uniforms, as Fort Frye has not had new ones for about 15 years.

“We’re really proud of them,” said Fort Frye band booster President Sherry Duskey. “We ordered 35, but we’re hoping to grow the band, because our new administration is really set on growing it.”

Fort Frye, like Marietta and other schools, has completed summertime band camp and has moved on to evening practices several days a week before school starts, in addition to different upcoming fundraisers.

“Our major event is (selling) our noodles at the Octoberfest in Lowell,” Duskey said. “We make homemade noodles for the booth, usually 150 dozen-eggs worth.”

Though the first football game, often held soon after the beginning of the school year, is one of the first kick-off events for marching bands, both Fort Frye and Waterford will be performing at the Waterford Community Fair this weekend.

“I always look forward to competitions and performances, because it’s an adrenaline rush before you walk onto that field,” said MHS senior Faith Payton, who plays the clarinet.

Though band director Courtney Clark and band boosters were not available for comment, the Warren Local Marching Warriors have reported some growth in previous years, as participation in 2013 had increased to 81 from 68 students.

Schools like Belpre and Frontier have struggled to maintain a band in years past, as Frontier has been trying to put together a small pep band to attend high school sporting events, and Belpre had gotten rid of the program altogether in 2008.

Belpre High School music teacher Bill Van Pelt was urged by administrators to do whatever he could to bring a marching band back to the school, and for the upcoming football season, he did just that.

“We had a pep band for a few years that would sit in the stands, and kids got excited, so the next logical step was a marching band,” he said. “The response from the community when the kids did that last year was overwhelming and it really had an effect, so at the end of last year they wanted a band, and I said ‘sure, why not.'”

Van Pelt organized a 27-member seventh-through-12th-grade band, held a full summer band camp and put together the group’s first show, with plans to perform at all home and away games.

“It’s a very young band, but those kids have stepped up to the plate and have done everything I’ve asked and more,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the efforts that these kids have put forth.”