2019-02-07 / Front Page

BHS to bring back band

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – After a decade-long hiatus, Biddeford High School is hoping to resurrect a former feather in its cap: the marching band.

Parent volunteers and members of the Biddeford High School staff are working together to breathe new life in the defunct program, which completed its last season in fall 2009. The once-robust band was defunded in 2010 due to budgetary cuts, leaving the school without a marching band for 10 years now.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30 in the BHS Little Theater, interested students and parents were encouraged to attend an informational meeting about the program. A presentation was given to interested parties as to the program and process of getting it off the ground.

The marching band program will be an extra-curricular activity open to students in grades eight through 12. Students enrolled in the program will attend a band camp intensive that will run from Aug. 19 through Aug. 27 to kick start the season, and will include two evening practices as well as a Saturday morning practice to prepare students for competition. The color guard will also return as part of the marching band.

“Working in a marching band is all team effort. It teaches you time management, memorization skills, discipline. It’s one big group project,” said Chris Ferrell, BHS vocal music and theater teacher. “It shows them how important it is to work together and be aware of your part in the grand scheme of things. If you’re off, it can throw off the whole performance.”

Students who take part in the marching band will be expected to participate not only in competition, but in parades and home football games.

The timing of the resurrection coincides with the newly renovated Waterhouse Field, which underwent an estimated $2.5 million project, with upgrades including a new turf field, bleachers, scoreboard, fencing and lights.

“We’ve got this great new stadium, and now we want to showcase our band,” said percussion instructor Michael Murphy.

The Biddeford High School marching band has a long history of success, performing at events such as the Washington, D.C., Cherry Blossom Parade in 1975, President Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration in 1977, and a celebration for George Washington’s 250th birthday in 1982. The marching band were state champions in 1998, and placed gold in competitions in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005. During its heyday, the marching band had as many as 120 members.

One particular parent, Jessica Johnson, became involved with the effort to bring back the marching band for her own children, who are now in middle school, who she wants to have this opportunity when its comes time for them to attend BHS.

“I want to see our kids out on the field again,” said Johnson, a 2000 BHS graduate and former band member. “I want my kids to have the chance to play and enjoy this experience. That’s why I wanted to get involved and try and make this happen.”

According to Karen Chasse, director of community outreach for BHS, organizers were pleased with the number of students who attended the Jan. 30 meeting – about 25 – but hoped that as word gets out, more students will want to join in.

“We need a minimum of 25 to start the program, but ideally we’d like to have closer to 40,” Chasse said.

Some students at BHS have joined the Old Orchard Beach High School marching band for competition, but Murphy hopes some of those students will return to the BHS band. Murphy also operates an indoor percussion program with students from BHS and surrounding schools during the marching band off-season, which he says is great preparation for the upcoming school marching band.

The deadline for students to join the marching band is Feb. 15 to allow the program to achieve the funding needed to move forward.

“The process of developing new uniforms and acquiring the necessary funding takes about six months, so we need to start as soon as possible,” Ferrell said.

Start-up cost for the program is $100,000, partially funded by the school budget, which includes stipends, show entry fees, contracted services, uniforms and equipment. To achieve the remainder of this cost, the team has set a projected fundraising goal of $50,000, in addition to private grants and in-kind donations. Proposed fundraising ideas include commemorative pillows made from old uniforms, concerts, raffles, auctions, and an indoor carnival.

“Bringing back the marching band is important because it shows that every single player is important. It gives them a sense of identity, a sense of self,” Ferrell said. “Every role is important, and nobody else can play your part.”

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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