ALLPORT — There is plenty of optimism within the West Branch Warrior Marching Band this year as a new director takes the helm.
West Branch Class of 2005 graduate Lance Jones is the new director, returning to his alma mater after spending nine years at the Northern Cambria School District as its director of bands.
On his way back to West Branch, Jones received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and a Master’s Degree from Messiah College in Instrumental Conducting.
“I’m just excited to be home,” Jones. “I had a great time at Northern Cambria and it was a great experience ... Knowing that I have the opportunity to build a program here at my alma mater — to serve the communities that I grew up in — for things to come full circle and for me to be able to give back where I started, that’s really exciting.”
This year’s band consists of 55 kids, with Jones also having long time band front advisor Melody Bell continuing her role. This year’s drum major is Katelyn Coulter. Bell said majorette captains are Dylanee Bell and Taylor Maguire, while silk co-captains are Carrie Fuller and Sara Sabol.
“The kids are very respectful, hard working and excited,” Jones said. “They came into this not knowing what to expect — not knowing what camp was going to be like and how I was going to run it. I’ve had no complaints or pushback. They’ve been awesome to work with. It’s very clear they’re a very resilient group of kids.”
During the Friday shows, Jones said the band will play songs from composer John Williams.
“We’re doing the theme from Superman,” Jones said. “Themes from Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movies. Then we’re ending with the Star Wars theme.”
Jones, who was approved as the new director in late June, said he picked a theme that he knew would be accessible to the kids.
“It’s something that they would have fun with and for the audience to enjoy,” Jones said. “Educationally, (Williams) is someone they should know about. I had kids that weren’t sure who John Williams was. So educationally, it fit. Musically, it gives them a chance to work on a lot of fundamental elements.”
Jones said that with the amount of directors the kids have had over the last handful of years, he’s looking to get the kids back to fundamentals both musically and with marching.
“That show will allow us to do that and it fits all of our needs,” Jones said. “Hopefully it’s going to be a crowd pleaser as well.”
West Branch had one full week of band camp with evening rehearsals scattered throughout.
During the summer months, the band did the Fourth of July parade at the Columbia Firemen’s Festival in Osceola Mills and the Heritage Days parade in Philipsburg without Jones, as he was still technically employed at Northern Cambria. Jones said he was extremely thankful for administration for volunteering time in helping the kids march in the two parades he was unable to.
“I am grateful to the (school) board, the administration and the boosters and band front advisor,” Jones said. “It’s been a team effort to this point. We have administration that’s been walking in parades with the kids. The boosters have been getting anything and everything the kids need to get them through the season. Mrs. Bell has been great (as band front advisor) in the transition. She’s been very resourceful. (Football head coach) Kevin Hubler reached out on day one. To have Kevin reach out on day one and be like, “I’m very excited to work with you,” that’s awesome. I can already tell this is going to be a special experience.”
Jones then joined at the Curwensville Days parade and they also went to the Clearfield County Fair parade.
Jones said he’s excited to give the kids opportunities and a “quality experience” that he received years ago as a West Branch student.
“I received a great music education when I was here,” Jones said. “People like Bill Gable and Cindy Penvose are some of the best teachers I ever had. If I can give these kids the experiences that I got as a kid, that’s what I’d like to do.”
West Branch will take the field this Friday at home as the Warrior football team hosts Philipsburg-Osceola.