June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Elyria High band seniors play finale on square

The Elyria High Pioneer Marching Band plays as the American flag is raised at the band’s appreciation concert on Ely Square on Friday evening. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

The Elyria High Pioneer Marching Band plays as the American flag is raised at the band’s appreciation concert on Ely Square on Friday evening. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — The capstone of a season that included 10 football games, three shows, several contests and a performance in the Cleveland International Tattoo was heard before it was seen.

The Elyria High School Pioneer Marching Band came marching down West Avenue to Second Street a little after 7 p.m. Friday with the bass from the school’s drum line leading the way. Spread across the square and the sidewalk facing the old county courthouse, dozen of parents, teachers and residents stood and applauded the musicians.

It was hard to tell who was there to thank whom.

The annual concert is the band’s way of thanking the community for its support, said band director John Shepka.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the tremendous support we receive,” he said.

For more than an hour, the band played. For the parents of seniors in the band, it marked the last official concert of the graduating students’ high school years.

For others, the night was about new beginnings.

In what is a yearly tradition that takes place at the annual Marching Band Community Appreciation Concert, the torch — actually a baton — was passed to incoming drum major Alex Hull. The ceremonial passing from this year’s major, Tyler Rutherford, to Alex signifies the start of the 17-year-old’s band leadership.

“I’m the face of the band,” Alex said to explain his role. “I’m the one who represents this massive collection of talent. When we are on the field, we are a sea of red, and I’m the black spot that represents Elyria.”

Alex said he first thought of being the drum major during his sophomore year. He said he knew in
order to be chosen he had to not just perfect his twirling. He also had to become a leader.

“It’s not just about baton twirling,” he said. “It’s about everything.”

After the baton was passed to Alex. Morgan Davis, 16, a mellophone player who is only the second girl to twirl the baton, was named assistant drum major. Next school year, she will study under Alex and for the 2015-16 school will be named drum major.

“I’m so excited, I can’t even put it into words,” Morgan said. “I know it will be great.”

Both Alex and Morgan were given a chance to wow the crowd with a small taste of what they will see come fall. Alex performed to Chicago’s hit “25 or 6 to 4” and Morgan performed to Buster Poindexter’s “Hot, Hot, Hot.”

Morgan, who is following in the footsteps of Rosie Behmer, the first female drum major in the school’s history, said it never dawned on her not to pursue the male-dominated role.

“Just the opposite — I saw the guys out there, and I knew I could do it, too,” she said.

She has been twirling since she was 9 years old with the Elyria’s Deputies Baton and Drum Corps.

Alex said Tyler, who after graduation plans to join the Marine Corps, will be missed.

“I learned a lot of leadership skills from him,” Alex said. “He knows how to be serious and when to have fun. He’s the reason I am a drum major.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

About Lisa Roberson

Lisa Roberson has been with the Chronicle since 2006, and covers Elyria city government and public education. She can be reached at 329-7121 or LRoberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter.