Student leaders take Marching Band to next level

When Marching Band Director Jon Waters approached junior Paul Reese last year to help organize logistics for the band and develop student leadership, Reese responded with his usual “Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to play” enthusiasm.

“Last year, we developed some student leadership positions to test the waters, and Paul and a few others emerged,” Waters said.

When he said yes, Reese understood that his task was all about Jon’s vision for the progression of the band. “This year is about perfecting the details,” Reese said. He spent the summer months multi-tasking, making sure all band members have working instruments and creating up-to-date electronic instrument and uniform inventories.

Perhaps his biggest and most significant project was the creation of a Google “classroom” that has been a great digital tool for the sharing of information. His inventories now live there. So, too, does all of the band’s music and drills, which can be accessed on their electronic devices.

Reese managed the logistics and communication for summer band camp via the Google classroom. He also created and helped to implement a list of responsibilities for band leadership, including new traditions. “If we have strong leadership, we have a strong band,” he said. “How we do things, the way our band works … that will set a precedent” for future bands.

And his efforts have paid off big time. It’s been rewarding to “watch the band accept new ideas and put their whole heart into it.”

This year, Waters has appointed 11 students as section leaders: Maia Brower (flutes), Tiana Young (clarinets), Madison Flory (clarinets), Megan Gwirtz (trumpets), Heather deJonge (saxophones), Paul Reese (baritones/low brass), Rory Bage (trombones), Marques Johnson (sousaphones), Bernadette Wolfe, Brenda Waite and Jasmyn Mullins (percussion).

It’s part of his plan – as Reese appropriately summarized – to progress the band to the next level with strong student leadership.

“Our success is not anything I do or my previous experience,” Waters said. “It’s totally about student buy-in and ownership.”

The section leaders have stepped up to serve as role models within the band. “They have been wonderful examples of what good leadership is,” Waters said. “This is where the program can gain traction with building a tradition of excellence, building accountability and building performance excellence.”

This high standard extends to off the field, too. The student leaders embrace the idea that they represent Heidelberg at all times, whether in uniform or not. “Now is the time we’re really going to see the band excel,” Waters added.

And there’s an added advantage: the skills the students are learning will be transferrable to life. “In the long run, they’re going to be better people in the world and better professionals,” he said.

And excellent ambassadors for Heidelberg University.

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