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As money dwindles, school bands build camaraderie

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GOUVERNEUR — Audience members cheered for their favorite bands Wednesday in the High School Band Parade at the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair, but behind the scenes, the six rival bands supported one another and shared memories.

These high school bands have come to sympathize with one another after budget cuts in schools have left marching bands on the chopping block.

“I think it’s sad that a lot of high schools don’t have marching bands,” said April A. VanOrman, a member of the Gouverneur Central School marching band. “OFA almost didn’t have a band, but we’re glad that they were able to make it.”

Rows of yellow school buses occupied the parking lot behind the grandstand, with band members congregating to share snacks, drinks and laughs. Dane M. Trombly, a former member of the Morristown Marching Rockets, was giving a few pointers to the newest members of the color guard. Mr. Trombly became a member of the Marine Corps Band after graduating in 2010, and recently returned to the north country for a visit after being deployed to Afghanistan.

“The color guard is one of the most important parts of the march because it’s the first thing people see,” Mr. Trombly said.

However, before it came down to showtime, the bands’ biggest supporters were each other.

“Good Luck, OFA,” the Morristown Marching Rockets shouted as the Ogdensburg Free Academy marching band left to perform.

“When I go out there in the grandstand, I just see everyone cheering. I don’t even think about it as a competition,” said Kelsey L. Austin, a Morristown color guard member.

Miss VanOrman joined Nicholas J. Leonard as alumni in the Gouverneur band, making it their last day with the group. They graduated in June.

“It’s really bittersweet,” Mr. Leonard said. “April and I became best friends through the band.” Miss VanOrman is going to St. Lawrence University, Canton, in the fall, while Mr. Leonard was accepted into the Crane School at SUNY Potsdam.

The director of the Gouverneur marching band, Kathleen M. Moses, also is saying goodbye to the band after 35 years.

“This is a really special moment for me,” Mrs. Moses said.

With blue and orange flip-flops on her feet, representing the school colors, Mrs. Moses said she still believes in school spirit.

“School spirit is a combination of pride, a good work ethic and respect for each other,” she said. She added that marching bands are not just about winning or being the best. “I just focus on my own kids,” Mrs. Moses said.

“We’re dedicating this performance to Mrs. Moses,” said Brianne A. Sterling, a color guard instructor for the Gouverneur marching band.



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