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Hancock receives new band uniforms

October 15, 2000

Hancock receives new band uniforms



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer


HANCOCK - Hancock High band member Charles Sexton said he and his marching peers always put their best feet forward.

But they had extra spring in their steps Oct. 3 at the Showcase of Bands competition.

Fresh from a division parade win in West Virginia's Buckwheat Festival, Charles and other members of the school's Panther Band took the field at South High sporting their first new uniforms in more than a decade.

"A lot of bands were looking at us because they liked the new uniforms," said Charles, 17, a senior clarinet player.

The Hancock High Band Boosters Club had been saving for years to replace the band's uniforms, which were 12 years old, said band director Mark Valko.

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An anonymous $5,000 donation last spring enabled the Band Boosters this year to pay the $22,000 for 75 new uniforms, Valko said.

The made-to-last outfits arrived about two days prior to this year's Hancock Canal Apple Days parade, he said.

"It was really good timing."

When band members first donned their new uniforms to march in their hometown parade, "It was like, 'Here we are. We've arrived as a band,' " Valko said. "It just seems to help lift everything up."

No more pinning on broken cummerbunds. No more juggling jackets, pants, shirts and dickeys. Now it's just a matter of pulling on a pair of crisp new slacks and a sleek jacket and topping it off with a hat, Charles said.

"It feels good to fade back to where we started from and see where we are now," he said.

Charles isn't just talking about the uniforms.

Valko said the Panther Band had been though five band directors in 10 years when he picked up the baton in the fall of 1998.

When only 20 musicians lined up in their old uniforms for that year's Canal Apple Days parade, the fledgling Hancock band director remembered waiting for the rest of the band to show up.

That was the whole band, Valko said.

The school's marching band now boasts about 50 members, including 30 high school musicians and about 20 eighth-grade marchers. Many seventh-graders are preparing to move up to marching band next year, Valko said.

Senior drum major Bethany Sterner credits her band director's dedication with boosting the band's membership and fueling band members' enthusiasm.

"I'm just allowing the kids to do what they need to do," Valko said.

Bethany said she really saw the results when the band chimed into "Cleveland Rocks" at the Buckwheat Festival near Morgantown, W.Va.

"The band likes playing. They like marching. The reception that we got was really good," she said. "Even though we're small, we have a lot of people in the band who really care about what we're doing."

It was the Panther Band's first time performing in the festival, which is near where Valko used to teach. The band director said upon his departure from his old school he promised to return in two years with his new band.

"When our band got there, we were ready to play," Charles said.

Valko said he and the band "had a great time" at the festival, but that he never expects his students to win.

"I just want the students to do their best job," he said.

The small band made a big bang at this year's Showcase of Bands, Valko said.

"I think we opened up some eyes," he said. "The audience was with them all the way through."

The Panther Band will perform in the Hancock Halloween Parade Oct. 25, the Mummer's Parade in Hagerstown Oct. 28, and at three more Hancock High football games.

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