DuBOIS — The DuBois Area High School marching band has been entertaining audience members at this year’s Friday night DuBois Beavers’ home football games with the music of rock band Bon Jovi.
“We’re performing ‘You Give Love a Bad Name,’ ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’” said band Director Melinda Swauger. “Last year, we did the music of Kiss and everyone seemed to like it so we decided to keep the rock band theme going.”
The 60-some students in this year’s band logged approximately 100 hours of practice during the seven-day band camp in the summer and have been practicing two nights a week since school started Aug. 28.
“The students work very hard to learn the skills necessary to march and play their chosen instrument,” said Swauger. “It is quite a process learning to perform music while moving from point A to point B, etc. There are about 45 sets in this year’s show. The students must execute drill formations while playing/spinning equipment, changing directions, counting, watching the Drum Major, listening, breathing correctly, and last but not least, performing.”
Swauger, who has been the band director for the last two years, was a member of the concert band, marching band, jazz band and pep band, as well as the chorus, at Cochranton Area Junior-Senior High School. She also played volleyball and softball, where she earned first team all conference honors as a junior and senior catcher. Her senior year, she was selected by coaches and teachers as the Musician of the Year and the Athlete of the Year.
Her college days were spent at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she received a degree in music education. There, she was a member of the marching band, jazz bands, IUP Chorale and Chamber Singers. She was a member of a professional fraternity and was elected treasurer and then president. She also played softball.
She moved to DuBois in 1992 as a new teacher at the junior high. She taught at the middle school, high school, Wasson Elementary and is currently in her second year back at the high school.
Phil Weyant has been the band’s assistant director for the past three years. He’s a former IUP student who started working with this band quite a while ago, actually, said Swauger.
Ann Oakes, a parent, is the color guard instructor for the band and her daughter, junior Hannah Oakes, has been the band’s feature baton twirler for the past three years.
Swauger said she loves the caliber of music that the high school students can play as well as their energy.
“I just love being close to their enthusiasm for the activity as a member of the activity myself for many years,” Swauger said. “It becomes like a family and it brings back a lot of memories. It motivates me to try to make the experience better for them.”
Swauger believes that participating in band gives students a chance to experience a team atmosphere.
“They are motivated to help each other improve and grow as performers,” she said. “No one sits the bench. The discipline, time management, sacrifice, dedication and resilience that members learn and share enhance the cognitive development that marching band members gain through the constant multi-tasking during practice and performance.”
Swauger said she loves to see the developing sense of confidence in the performers.
“When they realize that they are capable of giving more, it often translates to other areas of their school experience — looking out for one another, tutoring each other, motivating each other,” she said.
“What more can you ask for?” Swauger joked. “Except maybe to practice that last section just one more time?”