The Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools hired Laura Bandlow in 2007 to create a fifth through eighth-grade band program. Mrs. Bandlow, however, had another plan.
“In my mind, it was never going to be just a middle school band,” Mrs. Bandlow said.
She started the high school band program in 2010, at which time she made a discovery – an invoice for Vicksburg High Schools old marching band uniforms.
Mrs. Bandlow intended to resurrect the marching band and those uniforms would help. However, no one could find them.
When construction began on the St. Philip parish center that spring, the uniforms “miraculous appeared”. The nimble fingers of dedicated band parents converted these treasures into BCACS Marching Band uniforms.
The BCACS Marching Band returned after a six-decade hiatus in 2011. They ended their season with the annual Battle Creek Christmas Parade – a tradition they’ve kept every year since.
“It is important for us to get out into the community, so everybody in Battle Creek knows that we have a band program here,” Mrs. Bandlow said.
The parade is also a chance to celebrate.
“Since the parade route is near St. Philip we are able to walk back to school for some band bonding and fellowship including parents and siblings,” Mrs. Bandlow said. “Everyone looks forward to this post-parade fun.”
The students also look forward to the parade itself. It doesn’t matter if the parade weather is snowy, balmy or so cold they have to huddle in the band trailer for warmth.
“My favorite part of the Christmas parade is the preparation,” freshman Ari Pontoni said. “We put a lot of hours and hard work into making our performance the way we want it – marching in the parking lot, staying after school and listening to Christmas music in October.”
“My favorite part of marching in the Christmas parade is seeing all of the hard work that we put into practice paid off,” sophomore Andrew Cutshall said.
“I loved marching in the Christmas parade because it’s a special feeling to see children get excited about marching band,” senior Maggie Hill said.
Marching in the parade may not have changed, but other things have for our band over the last seven years. They have a new trailer, more instruments, and brand-new band uniforms specifically created for BCACS.
This year, the BCACS Marching Band received the Thad Harding Memorial Award in recognition of their participation longevity.
“The [BCACS Marching Band] has been with us since its formation in 2011, and we want to recognize…that,” Christmas Parade Committee Chairman Jim Demarest said.
The award honors the late Thad Harding who re-instituted the Christmas Parade in Battle Creek after a nearly 30-year lapse. The parade is a gift restored to our community, much like the BCACS Band Program is a gift restored to our school community.
The concert season begins tomorrow with the annual Christmas concert at 6:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph gym. The entire band program will perform, from the fifth-graders who are making their concert debut to seniors who are concert veterans.
It’s all gone according to Mrs. Bandlow’s plan.
“Band shouldn’t stop after eighth grade, or you will miss a whole component of music education,” Mrs. Bandlow said. “It’s not just getting better at your instrument. It’s the memories you will have forever.”