SIDNEY — Following the June retirement of Lehman Catholic High School’s longtime music teacher, the band finds itself this summer marching to the tune of a different — director.
Betsy Moorman, of Versailles, has taken up the baton and has been putting the band through its paces at band camp this week at the school.
“We practice as we’re going to perform. Would you want to show that? Ask yourself that,” she called from her perch on the podium high above the young musicians. “Reset and do it again.”
Moorman graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Music Education from Capital University in Columbus. She student taught at Licking Heights High School in Pataskala, where she assisted with bands and choirs of students in grades 5 through 12 and with the high school musical. Last fall, she served as the assistant director of the marching band at her alma mater, Versailles High School.
“I wanted to come back to the area and saw there was an opening here,” she said of her recent appointment to Lehman. She will oversee the Cavalier Choir, the Limelighters show choir, the concert band and musical instruction at Holy Angels Catholic School, as well as the Lehman marching band.
“They’re a great group of kids,” she said of the marchers. “They’ve been pretty open to my new ideas, which is nice.”
Sophomore Jacob Schmiesing, of Sidney, will serve as the band’s field commander during this, his second year in the ensemble.
“She does a pretty good job of keeping things moving,” he said of Moorman. “We’re getting used to the new person, how she runs warm-ups and rehearsals.”
Moorman has received some guidance from retiree Elaine Schweller-Snyder.
“She’s been great,” the new director said. “She’s been guiding me so I don’t change anything too drastic.”
The band is preparing its contest show. Moorman hired a Lehman alumna, Kendra Wendeln, to write the drill — the choreography — of the show. It comprises four pieces of music and Moorman hopes it will take the group to the state level of competition. Her plan to meet that challenge is to get the students to a proficiency that makes nuances automatic.
“We need to focus on the small details to get them in a routine every day, so we don’t have to think about them,” she said. They’ll perform the contest show throughout marching band sesaon.
Schmiesing, who played a bass drum in the band last year, is eager to go to contests, to “see how the changes she’s made affect us in competition,” he said. Their new show features music by the Beatles.
Moorman’s own tastes run to the classical. A flutist and pianist, herself, she likes the music of Schubert, listens to James Galway recordings and those by Vladimr Horowitz.
Asking beginning students to listen to master musicians and emulate their tones is a technique she plans to use at Holy Angels.
“I love junior high. I’m looking forward to going over there,” she said. Her methods classes at Capital gave her experience with every band instrument, so she’s not intimidated by having to teach instruments she doesn’t play herself when she introduces fifth-graders to nonvocal music.
When it comes to vocal performance, she hopes the Limelighters will also excel in competition.
“I love how they’re out in the community. I’d like to continue that,” Moorman said. Students will produce a musical in the spring, but their new teacher hasn’t yet decided which one it will be.
“I am not there yet,” she laughed. Right now, it’s about the band.
The Lehman parking lot has been marked off to simulate the football field, with signs set at the 50-, 30- and 20-yard locations. Working close to center field, the kids count their steps as they go through one pattern again and again to the beat of a solitary percussion block. After many repetitions, the musicians carry their instruments, but sing their parts as they execute the drill another few times before breaking for lunch.
The drumline hesitates before heading into the school cafeteria, waiting at the door to run through a tricky cadence a couple more times.
Then, they, too, move into the building to eat.
By all indications, the Lehman marching band and their new leader are getting off on the right foot.