SOUTH WHITLEY — Fall and football go hand in hand, but fall and marching band is equally compatible now at Whitko High School (WHS). After three years of marking time, the band has stepped back onto the field to march.
Band Director Joseph Shepherd is a 2003 WHS graduate and was a member of the Marching Pride all four years of his high school career.
“The band was thriving then. We received Division I ratings at regionals and were consistently placing,” said Shepherd. “I know the potential the band program can have. I am excited to see us making some in steps in that direction.”
Shepherd is in his first year as the band’s director and is working to rebuild the program.
He said not only has the band not had a marching program in three years, but its been six years since the band earned a gold ranking at an ISSMA event.
“It is frustrating to see that the band hasn’t lived up to the name, ‘Marching Pride,’ but that has changed this year,” Shepherd said. “There was a lack of motivation from students and a lack of pride. I think they knew that, but just didn’t know how to fix it.”
Shepherd reinstated pride among the marching band by engaging the crowd at home football games. The Marching Pride performed a half time show consisting of pop songs that the crowd would recognize.
“The crowd knows the songs which gets them excited to hear the band. We actually have a couple of songs that gets the crowd involved in chanting and cheering. That really makes the band students feel appreciated and gets them excited to take the field,” said Shepherd.
In addition to directing the high school band program, Shepherd also directs at Whitko Middle School. He said the program is small, with only four kids in sixth grade band. But Shepherd has hope. He said there is talent and ability in both the middle and high school programs, it will just take time to grow the program.
“It is hard to instill tradition when the program isn’t really established,”Shepherd said. “The kids just don’t know what is expected or what the program can be, but even without the program being there, these kids are working hard. They are getting excited to be in band and they are talented. Overall, these kids are great.”
The Marching Pride will take their music to South Bend Saturday to compete at an ISSMA event. Shepherd said the band will be scored and ranked, but at this event, the competition is against the band itself. There will not be a first, second and third place winner.
“It is a festival for smaller bands and is more like an exhibition. We are going with hopes of earning gold,” said Shepherd. Receiving gold would mean that the band scored in the highest ranking. Shepherd said this would “mean the world” to the band and its program.
As the school year continues, the band will make a switch to concert and jazz band. Shepherd said he plans to open the program up to any student who was once in band to come back and rejoin.
“That isn’t usually what I would do, but my goal is to double the size of the band next semester. There were a lot of students who were in band and sort of lost interest. This is there chance to come back,” Shepherd said.
In its upcoming schedule, the band will participate in ISSMA events as well as other concert and jazz band contests. In the spring, the Marching Pride will step off with a Memorial Day Parade and begin work on the 2013 season.
“I love what I do,”Shepherd said. “I enjoy the school and the administration here. The town has been so supportive of the band’s comeback. It is easy to be enthusiastic when you know you are making a difference and I truly love doing it.”