COLUMBUS-- Three years was all Wade Howles needed to completely transform the Lakeview High School band program. This, of course, came with a little help from his friends.
After former director Jen Himanga hung up her baton in 2014, many members of the band put their instrument cases away for good. At one point, only 12 musicians remained.
When Howles stepped up to the plate in 2015, things started changing for the better.
“In the three years I’ve been here, our numbers have doubled in size,” he said. “I started out with 21 kids and now I have 42.”
Along with the usual routine of marching, pep and concert band, Howles added another tier to the musical repertoire.
“Jazz band is an actual class now,” he said. “At first we were just meeting for about twenty minutes a day, if that.”
Another alteration was made to the band curriculum that may have made things easier on the students.
“This is the first year the seventh- and eighth-grade students are separate from each other,” he explained. “For a while, the seventh graders were thrown into music they didn’t know. Now we can move them along better separately.”
The break in redundancy may also be affecting the class sizes. Junior Caitlyn Buck said she appreciates one definitive difference band offers to her and her peers.
“We’re always doing stuff in here,” Buck, a baritone player, said. “In other classes, we get the lesson and then just sit there. It gets boring really quick. That never happens in band.”
Fellow junior Madi Mahoney added a sentiment to that notion.
“There is more of a sense of being in a team in band,” she said.
This team, Howles said, comes with a much appreciated virtue.
“In any kind of ensemble, you’re only as good as your weakest link,” he explained. “In other academics, it’s very individual. But band is the very antithesis of that, it’s all about contributing.”
Howles tries to add something new every year.
“This is the first time in seven years we’ve been in a field marching competition,” Howles said. “I try to have us do more parades, and increase the complexity of the music. Last year we even made it to state in field marching. It all just keeps growing.”
One student who has witnessed this growth is senior Marina Jimenez. The French horn player was one of Howles’ first students.
“Sometimes I get to school a little late,” she said. “So I come in here and there are already people sitting down and I freak out because I think class has already started. But no, everyone just comes in to hang out before school. This is where people have unity and more time is spent together.”
Howles has a clear goal as far as his band’s future goes.
“I hope to see more retention of seventh graders staying in through high school,” he said. “The administration has been very supportive and has helped me keep kids in class through schedule changes, which were very helpful.”