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Small in Number, Big in Heart
Written by Bradley Schlegel Staff Writer

Kierstin Levan, the school's band director, at right, instructs members of the drumline on their positions for the beginning segment of the four-song field show.

Upper Perk Marching Band Members Feel Like "Family"

                Four years ago, when Lauren Alcindor moved into the Upper Perkiomen School District, the high school marching band featured less than 35 members. Coming from a district in the Poconos with a 200-member band, Alcindor said the size of the group "felt odd."

                Four years later, the 2016 band has grown little. Currently, the marching Indians feature 42 musical performers and two band front members.

                However, Alcindor, a senior clarinet player, says the size of Upper Perkiomen's marching band now seems normal.

                Alysia Englert, one of two drum majors, says the limited numbers have fostered intimacy among the band members. "We're like a family," said Englert, also a senior. "Everyone is very close. I think it's the perfect number for the size of the school."

                Retaining music students in high school is not easy, according to Kierstin Levan, the school's band director. She said that since many of the performers are among the school's smartest students, they attempt to participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible. Often, they choose other activities.

                "It's a good problem to have," Levan said. "That's our biggest challenge."

                The unit's five seniors – which include Ben Goldstein, Valerie Jenkins and Josh Landis – have been with the marching band since they were in ninth grade.

                According to Alcindor, marching band requires significant dedication of time, as well as a musical inclination. She said members began practicing for the current season in early July. They met once a week to learn the music.

                During the first week of August, they attended practice twice a day to learn the four-song field show, designed by Justin McAdams, the band director at Phoenixville High School. The show is a tribute to the music of Earth, Wind and Fire. The band will perform the show at varsity football games.

                "We worked very hard on the basics of marching," Levan said.

                The music features many advanced rock rhythms requiring the band to construct marching cymbal racks for the show, according to Levan, who is also the band director at the middle school.

                "The music is very entertaining, but on the more difficult side to play," she wrote in an email. 

                Most weekdays after school, facing a scaffold in a parking lot at the southern end of the building, the band practices the show. According to the director, each student learns the show with a "dot book," a notebook that diagrams each performer's movements.

                "The goal is to create independent musicians," said Levan, a 2007 graduate of Pottstown High School.

                The numbers for the marching band appear headed in the right direction for future years. According to Levan, this year's unit includes 19 freshmen. She said the middle school marching band features 104 performers.

                "My job is to figure out how to keep those students involved in music," Levan said.

                The marching band in planning to compete in a festival in Virginia Beach during the current school year. Levan said all the school's music students can make the trip, as well.





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