Berkeley Springs High School marching band has new director
The band will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, said new high school and Warm Springs Middle School band director Ian Helmick.
Helmick had been band director/ music teacher for grades K-12 at Paw Paw Schools from 2002 until this summer. He transferred to his new position after band director Lee Cheek moved to Berkeley County Schools.
Helmick has a bachelor’s degree in music education from West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Helmick said his focus is to continue the band program and to keep up the excitement for the students and community.
“On Friday nights, the band loves playing in the stands. Some of the band favorites are when we play “Apache” (also known as “Jump On It”) for the cheerleaders to dance to, and long, loud drum rolls to help pump up the defense on big plays,” he said.
The band plays a post-game victory medley of “Hail West Virginia,” a fast version of “Alma Mater” and the Fight Song for school pride.
For their field show, the band has done three jazz pieces—“Watermelon Man,” “Chameleon” and “Let’s Groove,” Helmick said. At the Homecoming game, they played “Over the Rainbow.”
The band lost 16 to 17 members due to graduation last May. This year, some students couldn’t take band because they had Advanced Placement or Honors classes scheduled for the same class period.
Helmick’s goal is to have 80 kids in the band in three to four years—20 per grade. This year, 11 band members are freshmen.
Helmick acknowledged there have been some concerns about the band program due to the failed special school levy. The loss of funding would affect their ability to travel to games and events that are farther away.
“They will always have a band at the high school. They just might not be able to travel a lot,” Helmick said.
Skills from music
Helmick said studies have shown for years that there is a link indicating higher math and reasoning abilities in musicians.
“But more than that, band teaches team work, personal responsibility and school pride,” he noted.
If every person in the band isn’t out on the field, that affects their field show, Helmick said. When someone isn’t playing or is playing out of tune, it affects the whole band.
Band members weigh in
Senior Tiffany Sheppard is the band’s drum major. She played flute in fourth and fifth grade band and has played tuba since sixth grade.
Sheppard likes that the band has always been like a big family and that everyone gets along. If anyone ever needs support, the band is always there for them.
“This is my family away from my family,” Sheppard said.
Band brings out social skills and academic skills and “so many things you’d never think of,” she noted. Sheppard encouraged students to try it out.
Senior Rachel Grizzle is assistant drum major and has played flute in band since seventh grade. She said she really loves music.
“It’s really fun to get to go to school and play music every day. All my friends are in it so it’s really fun,” Grizzle said of band.
“It’s my favorite class. It makes me look forward to coming to school every day,” she added.
Grizzle wants to be a high school band director. She plans to attend Shepherd University and then transfer to West Virginia University.
Freshman Sarah Bittorie has been playing clarinet in band since sixth grade. She likes the music and that she gets to go to the football games. Bittorie said band is enjoyable, but it’s stressful finding time to practice.
Sophomore Kiara Hess plays saxophone and has also been in band since sixth grade. She enjoys going to every football game and cheering on the team.
“You’re in it to have fun. It’s serious, but not too serious. You get to learn music with your friends,” she said.
Hess also plays piano and said that playing saxophone in the band has helped her learn the piano.
Junior Kinsey Reed plays the snare drum and has played percussion in band since seventh grade. She said band helps her work with others to make really awesome music, which only happens when you work together. Reed plans to continue with music for the rest of her life.
Senior Dylan Kontra began playing baritone saxophone this year. He has played alto saxophone in band since middle school.
Kontra likes that band “is serious, but not uptight” and “loose, but not crazy.” Band has made him understand music more and also made him more outgoing, he said. Kontra plans to pursue theater or voice acting at West Virginia University.
Senior Samantha Veara has been playing trumpet since third grade. She loves marching and playing together with everyone “with the sole purpose of playing music and making music.”
“It has taught me discipline and to really work hard to achieve my goals,” Veara said.
She plans to major in speech pathology at Towson University and also play in their marching and concert band.
Parades & shows
Berkeley Springs was chosen as the best band in this year’s Apple Butter Festival Parade. They performed “Best Years of Our Lives” from the movie “Shrek.” At the Halloween parade in Hancock, they performed “Thriller.”
The band plans to perform “Jingle Bell Rock” for the Christmas parade. They will also hold their Winter Concert at the high school in mid- December. A medley of songs from “The Wizard of Oz” is planned.
The marching band plans to perform in a couple of parades in the spring. Helmick would like to take the band to the Strawberry Parade in Buckhannon in May.
A band boosters organization at the high school raises money for new uniforms and instruments for the band, instrument repairs and cleaning, music supplies and travel. A December raffle is planned to continue fundraising. The Darcy MacLachlan Fund also helps supports the band.
Helmick hopes to get more parents involved and to have the band boosters organization elect officers this school year. Band boosters meetings are scheduled for the third Monday of every month.