Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The Mt. Pleasant bands have had success at all levels thus far, but it didn't begin that way for some.
Laura Westfall, who is the elementary and fifth- and sixth-grade band director, says the students have been making progress so far.
"For the fifth-grade band, meeting as a full group all together has been great, especially given we didn't get to last year," Westfall said. "They performed twice this fall already and are making great progress on their instruments."
Westfall said they have done an excellent job learning to march and play. They've performed in the Mt. Pleasant Homecoming Parade, the Iowa Wesleyan Homecoming Parade, All Bands Night, and the final Varsity Home Football Game.
As for the seventh- and eighth-grade middle school band, much like the elementary, they improved throughout the fall too.
Middle school band director Adam Creager said he's proud of their hard work.
"This year has been great, and all the kids and all the bands have done an amazing job," Creager said. "For the seventh- and eighth-grade band, it's been fantastic to have the kids performing again at parades, field shows, and especially meeting all together as a group. They have grown a lot, and I'm really proud of their hard work and positive attitudes."
For the high school band, the year didn't begin precisely how anyone planned.
"With Jim DePriest having to be out for surgery, I think for the kids there was a little fear at first that they may not have a marching season again," Creager said. "Thankfully, we had time to plan out how things would work in regards to Laura Westfall, Ron Coberly, and myself all helping fill different roles to make certain everything would continue and provide the kids with the best experience possible while Jim was recovering."
Regardless of the doubt, in the beginning, the band has had a successful year. They began competing at the Linn-Mar Marching Invitational and finished eighth out of 11. They've also competed at the Clark County Parade of Champions competition, where they received first place in their class, along with awards for Outstanding Color Guard and Outstanding Drum Line.
With DePriest being out, more work had to be done to prepare.
"Jim's surgery was unanticipated, but we are extremely thankful we had the time to make plans and think through everything with him before his absence," Creager said. "One of the great things about our department is that everyone was willing to step up to continue the work Jim began. For years we have all helped out during summer marching band camp. This year, we just extended our time from 2 weeks to 2 months."
Laura, Ron, and Marlene DePriest ran daily rehearsals for the band. Dave Schneider and Creager got the equipment ready and set up most mornings, along with coordinating volunteers to drive trailers and move equipment on the weekends. Colin DePriest helped during summer camps in running sectional rehearsals.
The student's parents and Music Boosters were also an integral part in helping the band thus far.
"We also have an incredible team of parents and supporters in our Music Boosters that have helped coordinate our events, distribute and fix uniforms, drive trailers, haul and fix equipment, and we are so thankful for all their help," Creager said. "We all traveled together to every event."
Creager said that the program's success is thanks to the students.
"The kids have been outstanding," he said. "It's their hard work and commitment to excellence that makes our programs great. They were excited to return to what things were like prior to COVID. During COVID, we lost a little institutional memory in regards to how marching band events worked. For example, the entire freshman and sophomore class had never performed in a marching band competition until this year. That's literally half of the high school band."
Much like the high school, the seventh and eighth-grade band had not marched last year, and the seventh-graders never marched at all.
For this reason, the staff dedicated a lot of time and focus to communicating and showing the students what to expect.
Now that the marching band is finished, the band will move on to concert band and jazz band.
High School Jazz 1 has a performance coming up at the Washington Blues Club in Burlington in early November, opening for the Western Illinois Jazz Band.
Several students were also selected to participate in the OPUS Honor Choir, All-State Choir, and All-State Orchestra from Nov. 17 to Nov. 20.