Ridgway marching band working hard at camp

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

While it may not always receive the accolades given to our various sports teams, the Ridgway Area High School Marching Band deserves as much credit for the work they do. To see them go through practice Friday was impressive in the beating sun and the sweltering heat. The members attentively listened to the instructions of second-year band director Theresa Morley-Palmer while going through the final day of week one of the two-week band camp being held at the high school.

“This will make 30 hours this week we’ve worked. It’s strenuous what they are doing. It’s not only marching, it’s marching while playing, keeping the breath control going, and still listening to try to get everything in tune and in sync. It’s a lot to do,” said Palmer

The director along with Johnsonburg band director Don Treen and color guard assistant Renee Blankenship is running the 29 members through new routines in the hopes of performing during the upcoming football season which is a week away from starting official practice. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the PIAA last week put a two-week hold on sports activities. Official football practice was to start Aug. 10 and now will start Aug. 24 with the rest of the sports soccer, volleyball, golf, girls tennis, and cross country to follow a week later. The band was originally scheduled to take the field with the Elkers for the season-opener in St. Marys Aug. 28. District IX has not yet set a schedule for play which could change as the COVID-19 situation continues to be monitored.

Palmer is hopeful to put on a show wherever the football season kicks off and has been working on new material. She said this year’s music will be from the television series “Lost.”

“I certainly hope we get the opportunity but If we don’t get to do this because of COVID, next year we’re going to have a pregame and halftime show,” she said. Palmer can’t wait to show the public the routine which includes a marimba musical part featuring members Marshall Hetrick and Shana Polaski on xylophone.

The director who graduated from Sheffield in 1986 is not only looking forward to this season but to the future. “We only have two seniors, so we’re building something nice here,” she said.

Palmer is thrilled to have the marching band back at practice and feels it’s an important part of the member’s school experience. “It’s a huge social thing. The kids couldn’t wait to see each other. There is a lot of camaraderie with this group.”

The Penn-State graduate who was in the marching band while serving in the Army said the band was issued the music before camp. Knowing adhering to the COVID safety guidelines is necessary, Palmer said it has made things a bit tougher. “It’s hard because you can’t have the fifth and sixth-year kids as close as you would like with the first-year kids. When their help is needed they have to stay back and point while keeping their mask on. I give them so much credit for [coping with this],” Palmer said.

The band director has also guided the choir for the past 18 years. She is thankful for the Ridgway-Johnsonburg co-op which has allowed the band to enjoy higher numbers and praised the parents who are a huge part of helping the program continue. “The school district does a great job. They fund this program but the parents help get it to the next level,” Palmer said pointing out several fundraisers are held through the efforts of the parents.

You could feel the energy and enjoyment the band was having at practice. “This is great fun. I couldn’t wait. It’s been since March when we got to make music together. I’m thrilled and the kids are happy to be together,” Palmer said. She pointed out while not able to share music together when school was canceled in March she helped the members put together a CD with all of them playing separately while she put together the final product which she described as “quite good.”

The camp will continue on Monday.