WESTFALL TWP. - New music notes and dance steps will be performed in the Delaware Valley School District this year, when students demonstrate their talents for the school's first ever marching band and color guard.

DV Marching Band Teacher Rick Bullock said a marching band offers a “fantastic opportunity,” with “endless benefits.” Having a marching band is important, Bullock said, because many of the participating students who signed up for the band, are not in other school activities. An additional asset, is that students will become stronger musicians as their playing techniques improve. For those who participate in the flag spinning component known as color guard, their dancing talents will be enhanced. As the students move, Bullock said they will learn to multitask and be a part of a team.

The band has come about now, Bullock said because the district has waited for the right time and enough students who would be interested. As of mid-July, 70 students had already signed up to participate. That, he added is a great number to start with.    

Despite it being the summer, students attended their first practice in early July and since word of the marching band has spread, 10 more kids have joined. Bullock said he would love for 80 to 90 students to participate this year.

An extra curricular activity for middle and high school students who hope to “progress as musicians,” Bullock said there are students trading off between sports and music. Importantly too, there are students who have no experience playing an instrument, that simply want to learn how to play. 

The color guard students, Bullock said are “learning from scratch,” as there are great instructors  ready to teach the students about the danced based activity. The color guard already has 10 members, which Bulluck is pleased with.

Because of the students' range of experience, some having played since the fourth grade, Bullock will arrange the music so the students can be “successful regardless of how long they've played.” Excited about this new program, Bullock who has written for other bands, will write for the DV Marching Band, which he likes because he will be able to, “hear my music through my students.”

Aside from students' skills being enhanced, Bullock knows from his own time in the marching band, that the students may gain lifelong friends. Looking beyond the personal gain of participating, Bullock said the band members are also supporting their football team and playing for the community as they will perform at parades.

This year, due to the band's late start the students are “taking it easy,” because they will only perform at football games and the Milford parade, where the students will simply stand and play. Once trained, they will march in additional parades. A big difference to a marching band, he said is that the students will have to memorize music, which they do not have to do in any other ensemble.

Noting how the students won't be moving, Bullock said that was decided because he didn't want the students to be overwhelmed as their participation is meant to give them a chance to have a “positive experience.”

Many of the students are involved in the district's other music ensembles; like the band, orchestra and chorus. In those groups however, the students are graded.

As for the students' instruments, only the marching instruments are new. Instruments like a mellophone are specific for marching bands, explained Bullock, because there is a different sound for people to hear the music many yards away. Or there are sousaphones in place of the tuba, because of how difficult it would be to carry a tuba. All the percussion is also new.

Parents will pay for the students' shoes, but the uniforms will be provided by the district. Bullock said he is, “extremely grateful,” to everyone for supporting the marching band as there are schools that are cutting music programs. But DV is, “on the front end of all the music.” 

An 8th grade Language Arts Teacher and a 6th- 8th grade General Music Teacher at Dingman Delaware Middle School, Diana Swope will also be a part of the District's new music program. Being a part of DV's latest project, Swope said it is exciting because she knows from her time in the marching band, that it had a “positive influence,” on her life.

One of two conductors, Curtis Jaeger plays an array of instruments, from the piano to the french horn and more. While Greg Giliberti who will also be conducting, mainly plays the trumpet with a secondary talent for the drums.

Although they have only been practicing for two months, both conductors said they are ready for their new challenge, as Bullock has helped them understand their part in the band.

Paxton Mentench, who has played the drums since the 9th grade, said he decided to join the marching band because he wanted to challenge himself as a drummer. Participating in the band, he feels it will be more interesting as he has to march and perform at the same time. The trick to the trade, he said is focusing on keeping the tempo of how one walks and marches. This, isn't hard though, because as a percussionists “its natural.” Mentench was one of several students who thanked the district  as he and the others noted that funding a marching band is not cheap.

The startup cost of the marching band, DV Business Administrator William Hessling said is $150,000. Of that, $123,000 came from the school's general fund and $27,000 came from the DV 2000 Educational Foundation.

Jaeger said he decided to join the marching band because it is a “big opportunity.” Giliberti explained that the talent many of the students have, will be shown through the students' additional performances.

When Giliberti first heard of the marching band, he said he, “hoped on the bandwagon immediately.” As for Jaeger, he couldn't believe it. Even though there was a pep band before, Giliberti said participating in the marching band will be a, “nice change of pace.”