Not for the Faint of Heart: Henry Clay Marching Band providing a solid training ground for life

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By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

Marching band is not for the faint of heart.

Determined. Talented. Dedicated. Resilient. Those are but a few terms to describe the 112 band members at Henry Clay High School, where they know they are not only valued as individuals but also integral to the group’s overall success.

“We use the word ‘family’ since we’re always looking out for each other,” said band director Bill Kite, who expects his students to be responsible and accountable.

Arts activities like marching band, music, dance, theater, visual arts, media arts, literature, and design contribute to a well-rounded education. Such experiences give students additional opportunities to develop imagination and express creativity, and also hone elements that can help throughout their lives such as work ethic, team spirit, and performance under pressure.

The three drum majors – Reagan Cox, Angelica Malkowski, and Sarah Palmer – led warm-up exercises and then launched into the three-hour rehearsal (Photo Provided)

“We need to be more open to the creative side of the brain for problem-solving,” noted Jeff Bayerle, Kite’s assistant at Henry Clay.

At a recent after-school practice, the band members quickly assembled in the student parking lot, which is marked off like a football field. The three drum majors – Reagan Cox, Angelica Malkowski, and Sarah Palmer – led warm-up exercises and then launched into the three-hour rehearsal.

During fall’s marching season, these sessions are serious business as the band prepares for Friday night half-time performances and area competitions.

In addition to leading rehearsals, the drum majors conduct their bandmates and keep time during the shows and serve as liaisons with the staff.

“I’ve learned how to talk with people, and it forced me to get out of my comfort zone,” said Reagan, a senior who once considered herself shy.

“You have to be a lot more confident and able to help others,” added Angelica, a fellow senior who admits not having all the answers but leads the best she can every day.

One thing Henry Clay stresses, along with the family concept, is service.

“We focus on character-building and leadership. We talk to them a lot about serving others and putting others before themselves,” Kite explained.

The idea now resonates with Sarah, a junior, who recalled staying late after a recent meeting to clean up.

“I know what it means to serve. It’s clicked in my head this year,” she said.

Overall, the students grow closer through their years in marching band – building friendships and collecting lifetime memories. As Kite put it, “They feel like they’re a part of something great that they couldn’t have done on their own.”

Did you know?

The school board adopted a proclamation for FCPS to celebrate Sept. 10-16 as National Arts in Education Week.

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools

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