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Indian River reinstating marching band after 10-year hiatus

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PHILADELPHIA — After a more than 10-year hiatus, the Indian River Central School marching band again will be performing for community members at parades and competitions starting next spring.

“We had a vibrant program for many years,” Superintendent James Kettrick said.

The district Board of Education on Thursday approved expenses to offer marching band.

“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do,” Mr. Kettrick said. “Right now we’re at a point where financially we can do it and there is a rekindled interest.”

The band will be open to students in grades seven through 12. It will consist of different sections, including the American flag line, the band proper with brass and woodwind instruments and the drum line.

“One of the most exciting parts of a marching band is the drum line,” said Charles R. Heck, Indian River music coordinator and high school music director. He said when the band is performing on the street, it’s the drum line that’s the pulse of the group.

For 24 years, Mr. Heck said, he helped run the school marching band, and about 10 years ago the program was eliminated because of a lack of student interest and money. Since then, more than 135 black and blue uniforms have been in a closet waiting for another band.

“We had to wait till the timing was right, and the timing is right now,” Mr. Heck said.

During the 1970s and ’80s, Mr. Heck said, marching bands were a staple in connecting schools and their communities. He said a marching band is one of the best forms of public relations to showcase the musical talents of the students to people who don’t attend school events.

“Many years ago in this area, just about every district had a marching band,” Mr. Heck said. “What we’re hoping to do is foster school spirit. A marching band is a great way to show our spirit in the community.”

The district already has most of the equipment it needs, including drums, the uniforms, flags and banners. Mr. Heck said new marching flags may need to be purchased.

The board approved the hiring of three staff members to fill the roles of marching band leader, front row instructor, flag line instructor and drum line instructor. After the level of student interest is gauged, Mr. Kettrick said, the district could discuss hiring more staff. He said the number of interested students will determine the number of staff and buses needed.

District Business Manager James R. Koch created a cost estimate for the program based on a minimum of 60 students participating and a maximum of 160. In his report to the district, he said the program could cost between $8,848.83 and $12,088.21.

Practice will begin in the fall, teaching students not only how to play an instrument but how to play and march, Mr. Heck said. He said students will practice through the year to prepare for competitions and parades in the spring.

“There’s going to be a lot of give and take with the sports teams to field such an event like a marching band,” Mr. Heck said.

For the first year, the band will play up to four events: the Armed Forces Day Parade on May 16 in Watertown, the Memorial Day Parade on May 24 in Theresa, the Evans Mills and Antwerp Memorial Day Parade on May 25 and the Dairyland Festival Parade on July 5.

Mr. Kettrick said if there is enough interest in the marching band, there is an opportunity to create a pep band that would have musicians from the marching band playing in the stands during sports events.

“We see this as a great addition to our other programs,” Mr. Kettrick said. “We could do more in the future but are going to start with a few events.”

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