Despite Rumors, GHS Marching Band, Now ‘Pep Band,’ is Alive and Growing

'83 Ken Gioffre marching bandThe rumor mill about the GHS marching band has been churning. To set the record straight: Yes, GHS has a marching band, but it is now called ‘Pep Band.’

About ten years ago the requirement that members of GHS concert bands participate in marching band was eliminated and membership dropped.

Since last year, GHS math teacher Erik Gundel became director of the pep band which has grown to 30 members this year under his leadership. Students earn some community service hours for time spent performing in parades and at football games.

According to Dr. Winters, GHS headmaster, “For those involved, it’s a fun, bonding experience. We have struggled to maintain interest in Marching Band since it was removed as a requirement for being in the GHS concert bands.”

1983 marching band

Justin Bologna and Todd Cowen in GHS Compass Yearbook 1983.

Dr. Winters said he is optimistic that the numbers will steadily increase and that the marching band (Pep Band) at GHS will once again be the powerful presence at games and parades that is has been in the past.

Still the rumor mill has been buzzing. On Thursday (May 14) during WGCH 1490 AM Sam Romeo’s Greenwich Matters, a resident called in suggesting that marching band was canceled due to funding shortfalls.

“There is no band teacher and they never hired one. I think he just left because he didn’t want to the kids to play in the (marching) band. Maybe he was pushed out. I know there is no marching band for Greenwich High School. It’s pretty sad,” the caller said. “It’s really going down. I don’t hear nothing.”

marchingband '1970

GHS Marching Band. Photo: Compass yearbook 1970

Mr. Romeo said, “We only allowed $147 million for the school budget, so maybe there’s not enough money.” Romeo suggested the woman call Peter Tesei on Friday morning during his Ask the First Selectman radio program on WGCH.

On Friday morning a caller to Ask the First Selectman radio program asked the same question. “There is no band teacher,” she said to First Selectman Peter Tesei, in reference to the GHS marching band, but clearly misconstruing the marching band director, Erik Gundel, with John Yoon, the concert band teacher who was recently placed on administrative leave.

marching band 1955

Photo Compass Yearbook 1955

“There is no band teacher,” she complained to the First Selectman. “I called Sam Romeo. I called Town Hall and nobody seems to know.”

Mr. Tesei said that personnel matters at GHS aren’t within his purview and suggested the caller contact the Superintendent or Dr. Winters at GHS.

Port Chester High School marching band

Port Chester High School marching band performed in Greenwich’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2015

Don Conway was the next caller. He said he was disheartened at the contrast between the Port Chester High School marching and and the GHS marching band he had witnessed at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. “The Greenwich band came down and looked like they came out of a 24-hour party somewhere. There were only about 12 of them,” Conway said.

port chester high school marching band

Port Chester High School’s marching band performing in Greenwich’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, 2015.

“I did a little research and found out they haven’t bought uniforms for the kids for three years,” Cameron said. “It’s really criminal, because we spent all this money on MISA. The least they could do is put a marching band out there. Every town has a band. It’s like  Americana.”

“I totally agree,” Tesei said. “It’s great advertising for the program to have the kids perform. Perhaps that’s something that can be addressed through the Superintendent and and the Headmaster. Enough people are beginning to ask, ‘Where’s the band?'”

marching band '83

Photo: Compass yearbook 1983

 


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  • catorenasci

    The marching band requirement was removed for two reasons:
    1) There was concern that band students got an extra credit for marching band which inflated grade averages; and
    2) John Yoon unreasonably penalized the serious musicians involved in Saturday music programs in New York at Manhattan School of Music and Julliard.

    Making marching band voluntary solved both problems neatly. John Yoon was also removed as marching band director. Unclear whether he refused to do it if it wasn’t mandatory or whether he was told he couldn’t do it any more. There have been a number of teachers who filled in running the marching band, all of whom struggled with John Yoon’s lack of cooperation.

    This is all part of the very ugly John Yoon story….

    • Sandy Waters

      From the early 1990s to about 10 years ago, all band students were REQUIRED to participate in both the marching and concert bands. 200 students strong, the marching band was a valued participant in local parades and the football games. It even marched in the New Year’s parade in London one year. Band students received a weighted grade for their participation in the combined band program. All was well until two band students became valedictorians in the early 2000s. Guidance Director John Whalen complained internally that the weighted grade for band had given these students an unfair advantage. John Yoon objected, saying that students EARNED the weighted grade by doing extra work. Nevertheless, Headmistress Elaine Bessette and Music Coordinator Jeff Spector removed the requirement that all band students participate in marching band…and eliminated the weighted grade. As marching band was not popular among the students, in part because of the requirement to wear uniforms, participation in the marching band dwindled due to lack of student interest. Perhaps if John Whalen, Elaine Bessette, and Jeff Spector had left well enough alone, there would still be a marching band at GHS, and John Yoon would be running it.

  • GHS band alum

    Instead of going on about the lack of a serious marching band at the high school, this town needs to refocus its attentions on the best kept secret in Greenwich: the 150 member program that boasts 3 concert bands and 2 jazz ensembles, a program that is nationally acclaimed.

    I recognize that many members of the Greenwich community would like to see a large, organized marching band in town parades and football games, but the fact that this does not exist is certainly at no fault to the band directors or school administration. The student musicians at GHS are simply more interested in taking part in the school’s concert and jazz programs than in the marching band program, and that was the whole reason for making marching band voluntary– in order to make the program that did attract interest, more serious.

    If you need proof that GHS has a serious band program, come to their concerts in November, December, April, March, and June of every year. Hear about their amazing cultural exchange trips, and their domination of adjudications and competitions. Perhaps some residents of this town prefer Rockin’ Robin or the Star Spangled Banner to Shostakovich or Ellington, but let that not be a reason to put down a program that is unmatched in quality by any public high school in the greater area.

    Stop criticizing the school for not putting out a marching band when there is already an amazing program in place that is underappreciated by the town.