With no teacher to direct, high school marching band leads themselves

students in marching band rehearsing with their instruments
YouTube | ABC News

Being a marching band member in high school can be tough. Hours of daily practice, memorizing drills and music, putting on a show rain or shine — or snow — and on top of all that, the risk of being labeled extremely uncool.

(I was a band kid, so I know — we were nicknamed “bandos” and it wasn’t a compliment.)

One high school band in West Virginia added another level of difficulty: Losing their band director but continuing to practice and perform.

The Pocahontas County High School Band started the year without a leader — the previous director left the school over the summer, and there were no applicants to fill the position.

tubas laying on football field

Band students were given the choice to select another elective or to see if they could keep the band program going through another season of parades and pep rallies.

The 38 members of the band dwindled down to 10. But those 10 musicians decided to make it work.

“It wasn’t an option to quit,” band member Hailey Fitzgerald told TheRealWV.com. “I’ve been in the band for seven years. I love it. It’s too important, for many reasons.”

With the help of two faculty advisors, the students put together a plan. Rules were agreed upon and posted. Some members switched instruments to round out the ensemble. Fitzgerald assumed the role of band director and the group set about building their show from the ground up.

They even made T-shirts acknowledging the proverbial tuba in the room: “YES, THERE IS A BAND,” in the school’s maroon-and-gold colors.

And in an unusual-for-bandos twist, they now have their own cheering section, as seen in this clip from ABC News:

Their fall performance schedule includes Homecoming, a Veteran’s Day celebration and at least one football game. Next up for the band is “ratings,” where the band is evaluated and given notes for improvement, and possibly a Christmas concert.

It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of this rusty clarinetist. Go, band, go!

MORE: South Carolina teen voted in as high school’s first Black homecoming queen

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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua.

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