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NP band marches together as one

Friday, October 15, 2010

Members of the North Putnam Marching Band rehearse marching formations to director John Pinson's arrangement of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" at marching band practice Monday evening on the parking lot of North Putnam High School. The band has been preparing this week for its first appearance in Indiana State School Music Association Class C regional competition Saturday at Center Grove High School.
ROACHDALE -- North Putnam High School band director John Pinson said he's living proof of what extracurricular programs do for high school students -- Marching band gave him the motivation to graduate.

"It gave me a reason to come to school every day," he said.

That is the reason why he takes so much pride in instructing the 48-member North Putnam marching band and color guard.

"It's an important part of any program to be able to teach kids how to practice, how to have that discipline of making yourself do it so many times you cannot do it wrong," he said.

On any given Monday or Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. or Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. during the fall, Pinson, his support staff members and band are out on the high school's parking lot rehearsing sets in preparation for the ensemble's weekend contest schedule.

This weekend the band heads to Center Grove High School for the Indiana State School Music Association regional competition. This year marks the first year the band has progressed this far in state competition in Class C, Pinson said. The band moved up a class from last year due to increased school enrollment, meaning it has new competition than from previous years.

No matter the class or what competition the band faces, Pinson said being involved with the program is more of a learning opportunity for students.

"Giving students every opportunity to perform just enhances the educational part of our program because while no, there's no such thing as a professional marching band or color guard ... The things that we teach there, the personal responsibility, what it means to be a performer and strive for that excellence in performance all the time, not learning so you never get it wrong, but learning it so you never miss it," he said.

For Pinson and the band members, practice for the year's show started in August during band camp. This year also set a record for the band: it put music with about 83 marching formation sets before school started.

"The slowest part is putting movement to music," he said. "For some kids it takes a few days, others it may take a month."

This year's show, "Word Games," centers on word games and features songs and formations based on the alphabet. Songs include versions of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," the Jackson 5's "ABC" and "ABC and Dreams of a Scaffold", an original arrangement based on movements from "Symphony Fantastique," all of which Pinson arranged specifically for the show.

The show also requires some band and guard members to perform on an on-field stage built specifically for the theme.

While props have become a popular trend in the arena of competitive high school marching band in the state, Pinson said he prefers to stick mainly to the fundamentals.

"I'd rather the show be critiqued on music and marching merit," he said.

One struggle Pinson pointed out was dealing with an equipment budget for instrument repair while facing budget cuts similar to other programs across the state.

Despite these challenges, Pinson said the North Putnam program has shown a lot of improvement since he took it over four years ago.

"The level of expectation that I have for the students has improved," he said.

District support has helped, too: the school is helping with instrument repair, Pinson said.

"We're always appreciative when the school's administration and board are able to help us out," he said.

Community involvement is also instrumental to the band's success, Pinson said, noting that community members have donated instruments, money, food and time in building props.

"The North Putnam community is really what's keeping this band program alive right now. They have just really come together," he said. "Band parents, alumni and our building principals have been really great about supporting us."

Senior drum major and percussionist Alex Shelton also pointed to the dedication and sense of community that has developed within the band itself for its success the past few years.

"Any extracurricular event has its ups and downs. We've significantly increased our practice stamina," Shelton said. "Before (Mr. Pinson arrived), band was something you could do. Now, it's something that's not just about the music, it's not just about the score. Most everyone here gets along and we hang out outside of band."

Bands from all Putnam County high schools will join together for an all-county band day Tuesday at DePauw University.

For Pinson, it's not about being in competition with the other schools.

"With events like these, everyone is on the same team," he said. "It's a chance for us to get together and say, 'Isn't it fantastic we all have the ability to do this?'"

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"Before (Mr. Pinson arrived), band was something you could do. Now, it's something that's not just about the music, it's not just about the score. Most everyone here gets along and we hang out outside of band.

It has always been like this in marching band we become a family and those people become your closest friends that you stay in touch with the rest of your life!!!! Congrats Marching Cougars and GOOD LUCK at Regionals!!!!

-- Posted by cougarchick on Fri, Oct 15, 2010, at 7:42 AM

It is so sad that Greencastle does not have a marching band- so many kids miss a chance to be a part of something that creates lifetime friendships and memories and is a great self esteem booster. Way to go, North Putnam!

-- Posted by talkymom3 on Fri, Oct 15, 2010, at 12:56 PM

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