Parents are driving force behind Jasper marching band

JASPER, Ind. (AP) — After more than 2½ decades of continuous domination and excellence, the Jasper Marching Wildcats know how to win. And win, and win, and win some more.

The band has competed in the Indiana State School Music Association State Finals annually since 1990. Last October, the group took home third place at the ISSMA Open Class B Finals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and the kids are one contest away from returning to the state capital in early November for another chance at a championship.

It’s fitting that this year’s show is named “City of Gold,” because that’s what the kids rake in year-in and year-out.

So, when the band starts playing at a football game or a weekend contest, the parents of the band’s members can sit back and enjoy a consistently great and award-winning show, right?

Well, some of them can.

Others are busy tackling the halftime rush at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium’s concession stands or taking a breather on the field after hauling out the percussion pit instruments and equipment. You see, behind the scenes of the perennially decorated ensemble is a team of builders, tailors, fundraisers and overall supporters who put the band members in a position to succeed. They are moms and dads, relatives and friends. Known officially on their website as the “Jasper Band Parents,” they are a collective that pools their talents and time to better the band in any way they can.

“You talk about your church family, you talk about your work family, this is our band family,” said Connie Brenner, a parent volunteer whose son, Eric, plays baritone, and daughter, Emma Messmer, plays clarinet. “You spend a lot of time together and you just get close. You’re working together for a common goal — working to help the band and support the kids.”

Between marching band in the summer and fall, pep band, winter guard and solo and ensemble contests in the cold months and concert and symphonic band performances that dot the school year, students in the Jasper band program never stop moving. And neither do the dedicated volunteers who meet and work year-round to keep the program’s wheels turning.

In mid-September, band parent Audrey Fischer estimated she’d already clocked over 110 hours of volunteering with the Jasper band program in 2017. She is a co-chairwoman of the uniform committee and co-organizer of the ISSMA Scholastic Class Prelims and Open Invitational event that was held at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium earlier this month, meaning she does everything from hemming the kids’ pants to zipping around in a golf-cart on the day of the local contest to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“One thing I will say about band parents — when you put a call out for help, you’ll get it,” said Fischer, whose daughter, Abby, is a flutist in the group.

Parent meetings in June focus on securing chaperones for the group’s summer band camp at Murray State University in Kentucky as well as planning and manning spots for the group’s lemonade shake-up stand at the Jasper Strassenfest in August. Once the season starts, the volunteers do everything from loading and unloading trucks with instruments to tailoring and modifying the band’s uniforms. Operating the concession stand at football games in the fall and girls basketball games in the winter also pulls in much-needed dollars for the group.

About 150 students are in the marching band this season, and Band Parents President John Dixon said it takes almost every single one of those kids’ parents to fill all the shifts throughout the year. Having all hands on deck is especially important during the ISSMA Scholastic Class Prelims and Open Invitational the school hosts each year in October.

Volunteers are also needed to chaperone events and fill spots on a never-ending cycle of smaller fundraisers.

Over the course of a year, the Jasper band program — an umbrella that includes the school’s marching band, symphonic band, concert band and jazz band — generates a budget north of $100,000, all of which is earned through donations and in-house fundraising efforts. That money goes to things like hiring professionals who aren’t staffed at the high school to work with the kids as well as covering the cost of transportation fees, building marching band props and other expenses.

Daryl Parr and his wife, Melissa, have organized the lemonade shake-up stand for the past two years. The couple has three children in the band — alto saxophonist Clarissa, tuba player AJ and color guard member Chloe. Like many who give their time and resources to the group, Daryl never thought he’d end up spending quite as much time with the band as he does.

“I told my daughter, ‘Don’t ask me to do nothing,'” he said, reflecting on a time before he was a shake-up stand coordinator, a pit crew mover and all-around gopher for the group. “I started out chaperoning once, and now I’m fully invested.”

This is also true for many parents. It’s common for their involvement to begin with one small activity that gradually morphs into something that dominates their weekly schedules. Take Stephanie and Chris Pinkstaff, who have two children — flutist Sydney and mellophone player Logan — in the band. Stephanie and Chris are in charge of organizing the concession stands, which includes ordering the food and drinks and delegating responsibilities to other parent volunteers on game days. Stephanie said Jasper’s home football games have been so busy this year that neither she nor her husband has seen a glimpse of the band during their halftime performances. Coupled with other band volunteer efforts such as altering and adjusting uniforms on Tuesday and Thursday nights throughout the season, Stephanie admitted the extra work can cut into her home life.

“We were just talking about mowing the grass and doing things around the house,” Stephanie said. “For two months, that doesn’t really happen. You just get it done whenever you can work it in.

But all the band parents recognize that volunteers are essential to put the group in a position to succeed.

“If it wasn’t for the parents, a lot of this stuff wouldn’t get done,” Daryl said.