“The bands we’re going up against have 50 or 60,” says Joseph Shepherd, the band director at Whitko High School. Whitko Marching Pride is working with a mere 17 members, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming one the best marching bands in the state this year.
“I was a student here when the band was bigger,” Shepherd, a 2003 graduate of Whitko High, says. “We were very competitive in the state when I was here. I wanted to bring it back to what it was.”
What he lacks in quantity, Shepherd, now in his third year as Whitko’s band director, makes up for with quality. His students are remarkably talented, and he has a knack for connecting with audiences.
“We play a lot of current stuff. My first year here we did ‘Party Rock Anthem,’ and we did the full dance,” he says. “That’s what made people take notice. The student section enjoys the music. They cheer for us at games.”
“We’re ranked very high in the state,” says Shepherd. The band earned second place in its last competition, and this weekend it will be headed down to Indianapolis to compete in the ISSMA Scholastic Class MB Finals at Lawrence High School. The band will be performing “A Love Story,” set to Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby/Locked Out of Heaven;” “When I Was Your Man,” featuring an alto saxophone solo Morgan Puterbaugh; and “Marry You,”
Though Shepherd has been successful with his small band, he would like to see the numbers grow. “Last year I did a ton of recruiting,” he says. “We play in the community as much as possible.”
He even went so far as to call every fifth grade grade parent to ask if their kid might be interested in playing in the band. “Our middle school numbers are very good,” Shepherd says. “Hopefully it will grow.”
But if it doesn’t: “It doesn’t matter how small you are,” says Shepherd. “You can still have a good sound and be competitive.”
Whitko High School Marching Pride is: