And the band plays on

Published 6:44 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LINDEN – Homecoming is always a time to celebrate, but this Friday the students and alumni at Linden High School have an extra reason to show their pride.

Besides having an undefeated team on the field, the Patriots will be able to enjoy their own marching band performing at halftime for the first time in ten years.

Thanks to an after-school program last year Linden has revived its band program, which is creating a big noise in this small town.

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The Linden band program was incorporated into the regular class schedule this fall after being revived as an after-school program last year. “This will be the first time the band has been ready to perform on the field during halftime,” said band director William Barnes. “This actually comes a year earlier than expected. The students are really progressing at a fast pace.”

Barnes, who retired last year after teaching band for nearly 42 years, was contacted about creating a band class for students interested in music. In a few weeks, the band was boasting mor than 60 students – almost all of which had to be taught from ground zero.

“Once students saw we were serious they jumped on the band wagon,” said Barnes. “We started with about 30 and it doubled almost overnight.”

This is a new experience for Barnes. Just a few months ago he was helping lead the 200-member Meridian High School band in Mississippi.

Before that he served as the band director in Clarkdale, Miss., Kemper County, Miss., Demopolis and Choctaw County High School. In all of those positions Barnes has been used to working with a developed band program. Now he has been faced with building one from the ground up.

The band meets every afternoon in a makeshift band hall formed out of the old vocational class building. The instruments are a mixture of some the after school program purchased last year, a few donated instruments and some purchased by parents.

“The biggest obstacle right now is finding enough instruments to meet the number of students who want to play,” said Barnes.

Barnes also said the band is in the midst of starting a fundraising drive to purchase new instruments and uniforms.

“Building a program from the ground up is unchartered territory for me, but well worth the effort,” said Barnes, who is still retired but teaches at the high school for three hours each day. “I love working with band and music programs. I really enjoy teaching and seeing what programs like this do for the students.”

Chelsea Tucker decided last year to give the new after-school band class a chance. Now she’s hooked. An eleventh grader this year at Linden, Tucker has not only fallen in love with playing the alto clarinet but also the sense of finding her niche.

“I wasn’t interested in any of the sports offered at school, but I love music. This gives me a way to express that and learn to develop as a musician.”

For ninth grader Demetrius Edwards, it was the teamwork aspect he found most rewarding.

“I had always done things on my own,” he said. “I have never really worked in a group, but being on the drum line has taught me how to take something I have always wanted to do and work with others to accomplish a goal.”

“We simply started the program at the right time under the right conditions for it to take off,” Barnes said. “They were hungry for it, and the school as a whole seems excited to have a marching band again.”

Dressed in khakis and t-shirts specifically made for the band members to wear, the band has been a regular fixture in the football stands this season.

“When we first talked about reviving the band program last year I told superintendent Collier that it wouldn’t be until the third year that the band would be ready to perform for football games,” said Barnes, “but they have progressed so fast we decided to let them play in the stands.”

The homecoming show will feature the band serenading the homecoming court to the tune of the Temptations hit song “My Girl”, and a fanfare specifically wrote for the night’s ceremony.

“It’s great to see a band at Linden High again,” said Linden School superintendent Scott Collier. “We are all very proud of them and excited about it.”