A big day for Big Red Band alumni

Today is a special day for Parkersburg High School Big Red Marching Band alumni.

Band alumni will be celebrating a 90-year tradition and legacy of band excellence during today’s Parkersburg Homecoming Festival Parade, beginning at noon on Market Street, followed by a reception at 6 p.m. that evening in the PHS bandroom.

The significance of the celebration is not lost on current Big Red Band director Dan White. White, beginning his ninth year as the school’s band director, was a member of the PHS Marching Band from 1986 to 1989. He played the tuba in the marching and concert bands and the trombone in the jazz band.

White noted that he is the only PHS Band alumnus to serve as director of the band. “I have a lot of good, special memories of playing in the PHS Band,” White told me, such as the band winning numerous competitions and having other school bands respect the Big Red Band for its marching skills and discipline.

White said he has tried to instill the same principles in today’s band, which is still winning awards. The PHS Band members are instructed to stand still and remain quiet or sit at attention during awards ceremonies. Members are told to save their “whoops and hollers” at winning for celebrations back at the school bus.

White is expecting 60-70 band members this year. “Things are going well this year,” he said.

The marching band has been practicing all summer, and attended band camp at Cedar Lakes, in preparation for football games on Friday nights and Saturday competitions.

For the first time in the band’s history, White said, the marching band will have an all-girl (five members) snare (drum) line.

White expects the band to be wearing new hats at the first home football game. The band boosters also purchased 13 new drum carriers.

White is sure the Big Red Band will be ready for today’s Homecoming parade.

“The kids love parades,” he said. “They do well marching in parades.”

White remembers the thrill of marching down the hill to Market and 13th streets where the crowd was cheering on the band. He recalls one Christmas parade in particular where the snow on Market Street and the red uniforms of the band created an unforgettable sight.

White said he appreciates the feedback and advice he receives from former PHS Band directors Kent and Felice Jorgeson and David Burton. “They have helped me write shows. I lean on the former directors,” he said.

Assistant band director Jeff Treadway works part time with the program, helping in the summer and after school with the marching band. Treadway is director of music at Parkersburg Catholic High School.

Derrick Crawford, a student teacher from Glenville State College, was a great help to the band program at PHS the last couple of years, White said.

White has invited the widow, Amy, and son, Bobby, of the late Tom Eschbacher, a former drum major in the PHS Band and Parkersburg South High principal, to the alumni reception. Other reception invitations have gone out to musician Buddy Lee; Mike Winland, White’s band director at VanDevender Junior High School, and Burton, White’s band director at PHS.

“I am looking forward to meeting people I haven’t met,” along with friends he graduated with, at tonight’s band alumni party, White said.

Big Red Band alumni who want to march with the float in the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival Parade are being asked to report between 9:30 and 10 a.m. today to the back parking lot of the high school.

Event organizers are reminding the alumni to wear red and white.

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Norm Payne has big plans for his second annual “Labor of Love” Artfest 2014 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at Point Park in Parkersburg. The free Labor Day art show is featuring artists with their artwork, musical entertainment, food vendors, face painting, live portraits and free picture taking, said Payne, who will be displaying his pencil portraits.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com