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OFA marching band looking forward to ‘Wicked’ good season

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While much has been made about the size of this year’s Ogdensburg Free Academy marching band, Director Richard Patton said the band actually will be larger than the one it had last year.

“Our numbers are slightly larger than last year,” he said. “We’re looking at about 10 more people.”

Mr. Patton said this year’s band will include approximately 32 members, while the color guard will have about 15.

The honor guard, he said will have eight students.

“That will allow us to do a number of things,” he said, adding last year’s honor guard carried only the U.S. and New York state flags. With the increased numbers, Mr. Patton said, this year it also will carry the Canadian flag.

“Last year we had a young band,” he said. “I think we only had one senior.”

This year’s marching band includes approximately 40 returning members, giving Mr. Patton something to look forward to this summer.

“I’m hoping to build on where we left off last year,” he said. “Towards the end of the year we were really starting to gel and student leadership was really showing.”

Students will be performing a “Wizard of Oz”-themed show that features music from the original 1939 classic, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Wicked” and the 1978 film “The Wiz,” which starred Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Richard Pryor.

“We haven’t played it yet, but from the recording I’ve heard, it’s going to be an awesome show,” Mr. Patton said.

Asked why he thinks the school is struggling to field a band similar in size to the ones it’s had in the past, he said the responsibilities young people have today are different than they were in the past.

“More students are having jobs and paying their own bills, like for cellphones, cars and gas,” he said.

Maintaining a job and participating in marching band may be a challenge, Mr. Patton said, but it’s not impossible, especially when employers are flexible. “We were very fortunate last year to have a lot of employers who worked with us and allowed our students to have flexible schedules,” he said. “We’re hoping for the same thing again this year.”

While Mr. Patton is in his second year of leading the marching band, the color guard will be under the direction of first-time director Lisa Chase.

Mr. Patton said Ms. Chase, who has a daughter in the color guard and was a color guard member herself, is a nice addition to the band. “We’re very fortunate to have Ms. Chase on board this summer,” he said.

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