Masco's band doesn't march, it plays
Thursday, October, 18
By Ethan Forman
Masconomet Regional High's band does not march much, but that does not mean those students who play in the concert band can't march when they go to college.
"Even though we don't have a marching band, kids who leave here, it's not so hard for them to get" on a college marching band, said Walter 'Randy' O'Keefe, director of the band program at the regional high school for Topsfield, Boxford and Middleton.
O'Keefe puts an emphasis on music and leaves the teaching of the steps to the college programs.
It's not that O'Keefe is against marching bands, as one of his fondest memories was being on one while earning his master's degree in music for trumpet performance.
"I can still remember my first football game at (the University of) Notre Dame, coming out of the tunnel... I can still remember the chills," O'Keefe said.
It's not even mandatory for the 126-member band to play at football games, O'Keefe said.
"It's whoever shows up for the game," and that may be from 30 to 65 band members.
In fact, many athletes play in the band. Last year, Craig Bunker, the quarterback, was one of the lead percussionists, though he did not play during football games.
O'Keefe sees the band as providing fan support, along with the cheerleaders, for the football team on the field. He does not see the push to form a marching band within the community.
"I think people have asked us about a marching band, because Andover and North Andover have marching bands ... There are schools around us with big marching bands and its a reflection of what the community wants."
The band does practice marching for two weeks at the start of the season to be in the parade for the Topsfield Fair.
"The kids love it. But it is hard. We are not a marching band and that is not part of our tradition (like Danvers and Beverly)," O'Keefe said.
O'Keefe puts an emphasis on developing the talent of young musicians, while also finding music to please audiences during band concerts. Masconomet also does not have a symphony orchestra, so many band members play in the North Shore Youth Symphony Orchestra.
"In the four years they will spend with us in high school, we have to pick 16 to 20 of the best pieces for band, and those are the pieces we are going to focus on for four years," O'Keefe said.