YATESVILLE — The Pittston Area High School Marching Band has seen many faces come and go, but this season saw a huge increase in new members.
According to marching band director Brendan Carter, 19 new students joined the club this season, bringing the band’s total number to 49 students.
As the marching band consists of students in grades 7-12, Carter said most of the new students were seventh-graders, but a handful of upperclassmen joined as well, some of whom had prior experience playing instruments.
“We had a senior who stopped playing an instrument before and, out of the blue, wanted to come back,” Carter said. “She had a cousin in the band; that might have been a reason she joined. We also do a lot of recruiting at the middle school level and they see me twice a year as well as band director, Mr. Adam Burdett.”
Carter said the marching band started from scratch to get everyone up to speed on the marching routine and playing instruments.
Because the students greatly outweighed the staff, which includes Carter, an assistant band director and a color guard moderator, there were challenges working with the students and getting more uniforms, but the school district supported those efforts.
“We do have a lot of support in the high school from our administration, principal and vice principal,” Carter said. “Traditionally, the band does do very well. We’ve been on the upswing on where the program has been the past few years. We’ve been getting a lot of support from the school in general.”
Through hard work, the marching band went on to compete in the Cavalcade of Bands in Hershey, where it placed first overall in its division in 2014.
Carter said because of the significant increase in students, Pittston Area competed in a much tougher division, placing sixth out of 12 teams.
“Going up in class, we had brand new competitors that we’ve never gone up against before,” he said. “The kids were out of their comfort zone and we did not scale back any of the show design to try and make things easier. We still kept it as challenging as we normally would and the students handled it well.”
This year’s season was dedicated to Rita Merchuri and Marianna Smith, two former music teachers in the district who passed away within the past few years, Carter said.
The marching band’s performance at the Cavalcade of Bands was called “Above the Clouds” in dedication to the two teachers.
One of the most challenging aspects of this season, Carter said, was slowing the pace so the new students could catch up, while staff members and other students were eager to dive head-first into competition mode.
“It was sort of rough because we’d just come off a winning season (in 2014) and thought we could ride that wave out, but we had to dial it back a bit and get the new kids up to speed,” he said. “Some of the older kids were hesitant on slowing down, but along the way they realized how good it was to slow down and educate the younger kids who are the future of the program.”
With what Carter calls a learning year under their belts, the students will return in the spring to participate in local parades and get ready for competition season when the summer rolls around.
“We have a few parades we participate in such as the St. Patrick’s Parade in March as well as the Memorial Day Parade in Dupont,” said Carter. “Competition season is over now, so we basically have some parades to finish out and then we’ll be retooling for the next season sometime in June.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher