Numbers are up for the Wellington Dukes Marching Band compared to the past few years and members are looking for ways to help that pattern continue.
Thirty-two Wellington High and McCormick Middle School students are taking part compared to 26 last year and 21 in 2016.
Band director Toni Novotny is entering her 20th year at the helm and has helped her group qualify for state competition in all but five.
“There’s been some slow but steady growth these past few years,” she said. “We’re thrilled to have this many kids. There’s a good group of eighth grade kids coming out and a lot of younger kids seem to be really interested. There’s some siblings so that might have contributed to more participation too. It kind of goes in spurts. Last year we only had three eighth-graders and now we have nine.”
A tribute to Paul Simon will be the basis of the band’s competition shows this year but programming for football halftimes is still being finalized.
“I met with coach (Rob) Howells and we talked about his expectations for the band,” Novotny said. “He wants to have us play the alma mater at the end of every game, win, lose, or draw. We’ve tried that before with other football coaches and it just kind of got thrown to the wayside. He was very adamant about us playing it after games and having the team there holding helmets up.”
WHS sophomore Cameron Brinker’s Friday nights will be quite busy as he bounces between the band and playing football for the Dukes.
“He pulled double duty last year too and he’s a great kid,” said Novotny. “It’s nice for the band kids to have someone they know and someone they can cheer on for the whole game. The football coaches have been great as far as splitting his time between practices.”
While practicing Tuesday, several band members spoke highly of their director and of many residual benefits their music has brought.
“I’ve been in band with Mrs. Novotny since fifth grade,” said senior trombone player Lauren Gronsky. “It’s taught me so much responsibility and I don’t think I’d still be an honors student without it. With band, I make sure to write things down and to be on time. You have to be 15 minutes early to be on time here. It’s helped me get though high school because I have a web of people I can talk to.”
“A lot of us have siblings in the younger generation coming into the band right now,” said Evan Gerding, a senior trumpeter. “We all pass along band to them and I assume they’re passing it along to their friends at McCormick. Band is a great way to learn punctuality and discipline. I just hope the band continues to grow after we leave.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.