Marching Wolves make hometown girl proud

Lesley Toth
Lesley Toth

Bravo to the Milaca High School Marching Wolves for a stellar, undefeated season! As an alumna of this amazing organization, it’s great to see it continues to make everyone puff out their chest a bit, just for living here.

I realize these hard-working students don’t always receive the same attention as would, say, an undefeated football team, but at least in Milaca, musical achievement is still a benchmark that draws support and accolades from the community it so deserves.

During a time when neighboring districts appear to be doing away with their marching band programs completely, Milaca can boast not one, but three school marching bands. From Martin Garber’s fifth-graders to his junior high band, to Andrew Nelson’s senior high students, Milaca has a deep bench of motivated, talented and wonderful students and directors who make these programs so exceptional.

I never had the pleasure to play or march under the direction of Mr. Nelson, but from the praises I hear sung by parents and students alike, he is a major reason why those performers give their all under his capable care.

I did have the opportunity to learn from and play for Mr. Garber, who has been an irreplaceable asset to the Milaca junior high music program for decades. He was  the kind and patient mentor when he supported my decision to play oboe — the only one in the band at that time. And he was the gracious and understanding teacher when I traded that strange instrument in for the more familiar and versatile trumpet.

Some of my best summer memories are of marching with the Milaca Middle School Marching Band. My first out-of-state trip without my parents was to a parade in Wisconsin, where we young up-starts beat the pants off some rather impressive sounding high school bands.

One of my fondest and clearest memories of our trips was the one we took to Valley Fair the summer after eighth grade. After what seemed like a day’s long march to the Beach Boys’ classic “Barbara Anne” (I can’t hear a single hit from that band without waxing nostalgic for Mr. Garber’s band room) and watching other kids stand in line for their favorite rides, we were finally set loose upon the amusement park to spend the evening with our band mates. That was the year Wild Thing, the vomit-enducing, tallest of its kind in the world at the time, roller coaster opened. I can still hear the thrill shrieks my alto-saxophone-playing friend Julie Piatt (now Julie Flom) and I cried out from our screeching green car that day.

Marching band not only provides youth with a summer filled with musical education, team-building skills and activities to keep them busy during those long months away from school. Being involved with these exceptional programs helps create memories that last a lifetime.

With Garber laying the strong foundation and igniting that musical spark in the younger performers, to Nelson fanning the flames of their more mature ambition and eagerness to rock our socks off, Milaca is indeed fortunate to have such a successful and accomplished band program.

All of my fellow hometown residents should be proud.