Central Montcalm band director spearheads effort to help marching band shine

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 10:06 am on Monday, July 28, 2014

Central Montcalm band director Matt Reed shows the back of the new Central Montcalm marching band uniform, which will debut during the Grand Parade at Stanton’s Old Fashioned Days on Aug. 9. The Central Montcalm band has also started a Kickstarter fundraising that allows anyone in the world to donate funds to help purchase the new uniforms. — Daily News/Kyle Wilson

STANTON — When football fans attend Central Montcalm High School games in the autumn of 2015, they’ll have one more thing to be proud of, assuming an upcoming fundraiser to raise money for the purchase of new marching band uniforms goes as band director Matt Reed hopes it will.

On Saturday, Aug. 9, the day of the Stanton Old Fashioned Days parade, the band will roll out its online Kickstarter fundraising campaign to encourage band parents, alumni and the general public to help raise the funds needed to purchase the new uniforms.

The old ones, Reed said, are in dire need of replacement. The band’s current uniforms were purchased used in the fall of 2010 and are more than 17 years old — 10 years past their “life expectancy.”

Fraying fabric, holes, missing buttons; not exactly the stuff of which glorious musical moments are made.

“We were so desperate (in 2010) that we chose to use something another school had already replaced,” Reed said. “Of course these second-hand uniforms were closer to the end of their life than the beginning.”

The Kickstarter campaign is only the latest phase in an ongoing effort to raise the $24,000 needed to purchase 70 new uniforms.

“We started our fundraising process last winter with a spaghetti dinner concert in February,” Reed said. “Thanks to the Jack Arwood family, memorial donations following his passing went to the uniform fund as well. So far the boosters have raised about $8,000.”

Other fundraisers held in recent months include the Lane Hartwick Memorial Ride and a car wash with another in the works. Hartwick was a member of the band when he was a student at Central Montcalm.  Additionally, the school has allocated $6,000 in its 2014-2015 budget and another $6,000 the following year to assist with the purchase of the uniforms.

Reed said the uniforms are emblematic of the improvements seen in recent years in the Central Montcalm band. At its lowest point, the band — which once boasted more than 100 members in the 1980s and 1990s — was only a shadow of its former self.

“A treasured highlight for many is the 1987 trip to the Gator Bowl,” Reed notes on the band’s Kickstarter page. “Unfortunately, the good times for the program came to an end in the early 2000s. Continued attrition from the program brought the band to its knees, and in 2010 there were only 18 students in the high school program. Thankfully, we are moving past that era. Under new leadership the program is growing quickly. We have almost 50 students in high school band for the fall of 2014 and more projected for the coming years.”

To date, the public’s support of the fundraising effort has been “overwhelming,” Reed added. The dinner raised far more than anyone had expected and the donations from the memorial ride brought in more unanticipated funding.

According to Reed, each fundraiser held so far has overshot its original goal. Much of that success can be attributed to a hard working Band Boosters group, lead by Booster President Jeni Williams.

“As a booster, getting new marching band uniforms symbolizes a new beginning for our program,” Williams said. “The boosters are working hard to change the image of the past and this is one of the last pieces of the puzzle. The students are excited and the Central Montcalm community is excited and extremely supportive of our efforts.”

The new uniforms, which are very “21st century,” were designed by the Fred J. Miller Corp. with input from Reed, the boosters and students and are unique to Central Montcalm.  A prototype uniform will be available for viewing at Old Fashioned Days and online following the unveiling of the Kickstarter page in August.

A video, featuring former Central Montcalm band directors Mark Edwards and Mel Jones, also will be available for viewing. Jones, who directed the band during its heydey in the mid-1960s through 1980, will be returning from his current home in the Upper Peninsula to conduct the school’s fight song at this year’s homecoming game.

The band students themselves are excited to be part of the fundraising effort and are anxious to show off the new uniforms, which must be ordered by January or February to assure delivery in the summer of 2015. Funding must be in place prior to, or shortly after the new year in order for students to have them in time for the 2015 season.

The new uniforms are more than just a fashion statement, Reed stressed; they’re a sign of the band’s resurgence and growth — both musically and in terms of numbers — in recent years.

“Getting the new uniforms will symbolize the confidence we have in ourselves now,” said Central Montcalm junior and drum major Anna Williams.

“Getting new uniforms will put a new face on the band, give us more enthusiasm,” agreed sophomore and baritone saxophone player Devyn Bourque.

Even senior band students, such as Santiago Alvarado — who will never get the chance to wear one of the new uniforms himself — are getting behind the effort.

“As a current senior, I won’t get to use the new uniforms,” Alvarado said. “But helping get new uniforms is a legacy my class is proud to leave.”

The Kickstarter campaign begins Aug. 8 and will be active for 60 days.  For more information on accessing the page once it goes live, visit the school’s website at www.central-montcalm.org/cm-high online.

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