OHS alumni celebrate marching band’s 50th anniversary

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

Friday night lights have been absent for many former “band geeks” and football players since their respective graduation dates.

When they were all asked to come out of the woodwork Friday for the Owensville Marching Band’s 50th anniversary, they didn’t disappoint.

Hillary Alexander Winter and Jordan Palmer, current band directors, arranged the event and put a lot of time and effort into finding the alumni.

Along with other former band geeks, I was excited about this event for weeks. 

When I found out the band and color guard alumni were being asked to participate, I couldn’t contain my excitement!

My older sister and I were both alumni, and a younger sister still in high school used to play. I had this vision of the three of us, 17, 30, and 35 years of age — having the opportunity to share a field. (We had more siblings play, but they either quit before high school, or played at different schools). 

After insisting and begging, my older sister gave in and agreed to participate with me. My youngest brother drove from St. Clair Friday morning to bring my instrument back to me so I could play that night.

At zero hour, I parked my car 15 spaces from the band room, grabbed my trombone, and headed toward the noise of multiple brass and wind instruments warming up, playing out of time and out of tune. Smiling. My people were walking in and out of those doors. 

I noticed I wasn’t the only one, as women not much older than myself approached me and asked where the alumni were supposed to go. We followed others carrying instrument cases toward the band room. 

I spied a familiar face near the band room entrance who also seemed to be comparing faces.

If anyone had mentioned to me that Mr. Bill Vogt, who retired after my sophomore year in 2004-05, was getting old, I would have believed them. But let me say, that man was still spry for an old guy. I stopped to listen as people shared memories with him and took my time going in. I even met some of my former upperclassmen while I waited.

Those double doors to the band room were suddenly much smaller than I remembered as nearly a hundred people filed in amongst the sound of musical warm-ups and shouts of “hello!” Many stopped to hug, even more to read name tags with graduation years.

I parked my trombone case next to the trombones, not worried about losing it. After all, it still has a name tag attached to the handle. My name, scrawled by my middle school self, “Roxie Meyer” in print.

Other former and current band teachers arrived. I will admit to being fascinated by those trombonists from the early bands, and noting a kindred spirt with some of the ladies from the 90s. But instead of the thrill I used to get in the band room, it became wonder.

Being back in the band room was like being wrapped in a warm blanket with percussion behind us and winds in front…realizing I was home after 11 years, and I hadn’t realized until that moment that I had been gone. 

I didn’t know I missed it. What a rush!

Like sticks, everyone lined up with their sections.

By 4:45 p.m., as Mr. Vogt was ready to “whip us all into shape,” there was a good crowd, but elbow room was still there. We played “Across the Wide Missouri” first, comparing old sheets of music. Some of us (me) still had to the new ones. Marking cuts from one measure to another. Trying to remember slide positions with notes and many of us admitting that YouTube had some great refreshers!

Mr. Vogt approached the middle of the arc, blew his whistle and the crowd quieted. 

He raised both arms and across the room, instruments came up. He introduced the introduction, and I buzzed my lips for that first note of the “Missouri” melody. 

His left hand motioned to quiet the wind instruments and brought the low lines in. Amazing…the bands of the last 50 years could come together so well! From 1968 to 2018!

By the time we got to our old parade march “Off the Line,” I no longer had elbow room and I could barely see past the people in front of me. The room kept filling, the trombone line had grown to at least 12 former players, with at least two new ones. The tick on the side of drum rims to start us off into the intro of the parade march became many instead of one. The floor rumbled with the pulsating vibration of the drums, reverberated into my body, reaching my heart in a sound wave — keeping time.

By 6:20 p.m., we were lined up outside the band room to march onto the track for the “Star Spangled Banner,” giving time for the current band to have their space back, warm up and be field ready at 6:40 p.m. for the pre-show. 

And the alumni band received front row seats.

What a wonderful show!

I would have loved to see them completely dressed out, or have gone to the Washington Band Festival the next day! 

Following our national anthem, we were all directed to the stands to wait for half-time.

Lining up on the track pre-half time was chaotic. The discipline of the Vogt-era bands was different from the more lenient band to follow. Everyone had their own traditions of line-ups, and shared what they were. The drums brought us together though.

Everyone knows that drummers are a world unto themselves. In a band, however, they control everyone’s else’s pace. Is it ironic that the most free-spirited people are in charge of keeping an entire accompaniment on the path of the straight and narrow? Or were drummers just like us until so much pressure was put on — they were broken by the accompaniment depending on them?

We started marching.

When the drumline changes tempo unexpectedly, the sound waves from the drum cadence slams into my chest and my heart skips with my feet to catch up to the beat. Meanwhile, the tempo echoes loudly in my mind, “LEFT, LEFT,” as my feet march to the precise “THWACK” of drum sticks on the rim of each circular metal ring, stretching taunt a canvas center.

Someone behind me yelled “I want to see the bottom of your shoes, roll those feet high!” and we all knew what that meant. Attitude. Pride. Chin up, elbows in form.

The breath of the drummer behind me was more felt that heard, proving with very little effort, they can keep more than 100 instruments, flags and rifles going at their convenience. They are precision, each perfect “thump” keeping us in time, but their hair flows free — as the crowd breathes down from the stands — to the 100-yard field below.

Regardless of the amount of attitude each one of us was taught to carry in our hay days versus “winging it” now, there was enough left to bring us all confidently marching. It was the drum line that pushed us off the track at the back of the field, wrinkled time, until all the pasts of the last 50 years meshed into one future and the three drum majors that awaited us at the front of Dutchmen Field.

Among the nervous fluttering of music sheets, my heartbeat was calm. Glancing to the right and left was something I would have never thought to do in my hay day, but I did it anyway. Mr. Vogt at the front looked us over in a quick left, right stride before taking the drum major stand.

We were announced, and prideful shouts and cheers came from the front of our former leader instead of from the crowd behind him. We broke formation to give our own war cry for our glory days, taking our fearless leader truly aback for probably the first time ever.

We cheered on our creator, Mr. Charles Feagan, who cared enough to get the band started, even though marching wasn’t his forte. We cheered for Mr. Vogt who taught us it wasn’t about “I hope we win” but “when we win” and we cheered for Dr. Matt Frederickson because he cared enough to try to keep that pride and attitude going. 

We cheered for Mr. Palmer and Mrs. Winter, because they are pulling the marching band’s pride back in after the loss of such great roll models. They are leading the transition band, and they knew where pride would lay in so much bounty, it would have to rub off.

When it was all said and done, it was bittersweet. So many of us wanted more! We few on the field that represented the many, some sitting in the stands to cheer us on — know that we would support this tradition. 

We are proud of our band! We are proud of our current band! Yes, they need more members, but they do not stand alone.

As 30 or so young adults take the field to represent the Owensville Marching Magic for the 2018 competition season, I hope they remember the presence of pride from Friday night. Represent us well, Owensville Marching Magic. Be willing to wrinkle time and pull those ghosts of former membership. We band geeks are always watching.