Marching bands have always been a staple of Fourth of July parades, especially for high school bands in their hometowns. However, on July 3rd, the day of the scheduled parade practice, Griffith High School’s marching band was notified by its former director and school administration that practice was cancelled; the marching band would not be in the parade. The director had recently resigned, and the certified teacher scheduled to supervise the band had to cancel due to a family emergency.
The cancellation caused a social media storm of upset parents and residents, especially since it was in the wake of Griffith High School’s controversial budget cuts. The budget cuts wreaked havoc at the end of the school year and throughout the summer, as they resulted in the mass firing of faculty and the flight of more qualified, veteran, beloved teachers, including the entire Griffith High music department.
Rather than watch their school continue to crumble from poor management of money and people, the marching band students and parents took matters into their own hands. Drum majors Charles Murphy and Abby Wroblewski cooperated with band parents, including a certified educator to supervise the teens, and the school board to open the doors to the school and band room, arrange a police escort for practice, and found a place in the parade.
“I was in charge of getting information out to every band member,” said Wroblewski. “When my mom and a few other parents found out the parade had been cancelled [for us], they contacted members on the school board for help. Members Kathy Ruesken and Rich Leber took action immediately and found a way to get into the building.”
Practice was held on July 3rd at the high school. Students, including new players and seasoned alumni, memorized patriotic music and the school song before marching in the back parking lot and the street with a police escort.
“As a drum major, my role was to make sure that everyone was there on time with what they needed to have and ready to perform,” said Murphy. “With help from some school board members and a faculty member at the school, we were able to practice the day before the Fourth of July and perform in the parade.”
On July 4th, the marching band met up at the school to warm up and climb onto a bus that took them to a residential street to wait for the parade to begin. They lined up in their block and kept hydrated. Finally, at 10:00 a.m., the band stepped onto Broad Street, in straight lines, playing the country’s anthems. They marched past Central Park, the Grindhouse Cafe, rows of shops and restaurants, and finally turned right onto Main Street where their marching block collapsed into a huddle of sweaty, exhausted teenagers.
Parades are never easy, especially in hot, humid weather, but the band had done it again. All the way, Griffith residents cheered and waved at the marchers, delighted that their school spirit and band came through. Town and school leaders publicly thanked the students for putting in extra effort just for the sake of spirit.
“I am going to be in my sixth year as a marching band student,” said Murphy. “I really wanted to be able to see everything come full circle, [from me] starting as a small seventh grader learning how to march to being a senior leading the band. The parade has had a great impact in my life; it gives me time to understand my peers and really get to know who they are. It furthers my experience and knowledge of the band and the music itself. I take being a drum major very seriously, like being the leader of a sports team. It’s a great maturing opportunity.”
“I’m incredibly happy everyone came together to make the parade possible,” said Wroblewski. “Everyone worked so well with each other. My senior year wouldn’t have been complete without a Fourth of July parade, and I am thankful parents and band students came together to make it possible. Band has always been my favorite thing to do, and I think it was the best parade Griffith has done in the past two years, even with it being completely student-led.”
Griffith High School Bands hope to get a new director soon and preserve their traditions. The marching band will be in the Homecoming Parade and perform at football games. Thanks to the resilience of past and current members, marching band will continue to be available for promising musicians for another Fourth of July.