After slowed growth in years past, many of the school band programs in Washington County are reporting higher numbers of students participating this school year.
Several reasons accounted for the dwindling levels of band members.
"Students have a lot more options than they typically did in the past, considering driving, working (and) family commitments," said Bill Van Pelt, band and choir teacher for Belpre City Schools.
SHARON BOPP The Marietta Times
Aaron Offenberger, 16, of Beverly, Brett Seese, 16, of Lowell, and Jared Duskey, 15, of Lowell take part in band practice at Fort Frye High School Wednesday.
Budget reductions have also played a role in reduced band participation.
In 2008, Belpre City Schools saw some cost savings when the board voted to eliminate the marching band program, citing declining participation.
For school districts, the cost of musical instruments can be prohibitive to students and their parents.
If you donate
To donate a musical instrument to the Fort Frye Local school district, contact Casey Mercer, band director, at 984-2376.
To donate a musical instrument to Belpre City Schools District, contact Bill Van Pelt, band and choir teacher, at 423-9511.
"Given the state of our economy, parents are not always able to go out and purchase new instruments," said Van Pelt.
"And even though there are several reputable rent to own programs in the area some parents are leery to committing to such a long term commitment," he added.
It's likely that residents in the Fort Frye Local school district and Marietta City Schools have unused instruments, especially if they or their children once participated in band, that they may be willing to donate to the schools.
To donate a musical instrument to Fort Frye Local school district, contact band director Casey Mercer at 984-2376. For donations to Belpre City Schools District, contact Van Pelt at 423-9511.
Fortunately, the number of participants in Belpre's instrumental music program has been increasing lately, noted superintendent Tony Dunn.
"There's discussion all the time on what we are able or not able to do (regarding the marching band's return). At this time, there has not been a decision made," said Ben Cunningham, assistant principal at Belpre High School.
For the time being, Belpre High School's instrumental band class is "thriving," Van Pelt said. Plus, the high school's pep band continues to support the school's football and basketball teams.
Fort Frye High School's band program has seen a surge in community interest and student participation due to the success of its marching band, said Casey Mercer, the high school's band director.
"I think that's helped a lot," Mercer said, noting the marching band's participation in competitions in Cambridge, Marietta and Philo, as well as in various honor bands in the area.
Currently Fort Frye High School's marching band has 22 members and its concert band has 27 members. The fifth and sixth grade band is 50 students strong.
"There's a positive energy about the band right now," said Tom Gibbs, Fort Frye Local superintendent.
Recruiting efforts at the middle school level have helped grow numbers of band students in Marietta City Schools.
Although the number of students in the Marietta High School marching band dropped slightly from 89 last school year to 87 this year, middle-school numbers promise future growth at the high school level.
"The Marietta Middle School band is getting larger. The numbers are up from when I first came in 2007," said Ernie Cornell, high school band director.
According to Cornell, Marietta Middle School's band is 130 students strong this year, up from 97 students last year and 59 students in 2007.
To help recruit middle school students to Marietta's high school marching band, seventh and eighth grade band members can march in Marietta High School's homecoming parade.
"We marched 81 (middle high) students for this year's homecoming," Cornell said.
Recruitment is also being successfully used in the Warren Local school district, said Courtney Clark, Warren High School band director.
Last year, band participation at Warren High School was 60 students. This year, that number grew to 70.
"The projection for next year is more growth," Clark said.
A recruitment day last year, where Warren High School students performed different types of band music at the district's three elementary schools, will likely help boost future participation at the high school level.
Other recruitment efforts are also under way.
Warren junior high students were recently invited to play during the last football game of the high school season, and Warren High School's pep band has been opened to seven and eighth graders.