Columbus North was driven to return to the state marching band finals this year — a new experience for the 161-member band.
The Sound of North Marching Band finished ninth during the Indiana State School Music Association state finals Saturday in Indianapolis, one of 10 bands competing in the large-school division at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Assistant band director Keith Burton said he thought his students put on a strong performance during the finals, adding that there wasn’t much change in the overall placement among schools from the semi-state competition held the previous weekend.
A strong contingent of backers — including the band boosters — made the trip to support the Sound of North.
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Geoffrey and Wendy Raymer have supported the Sound of North the past six years through their involvement with the booster club, serving as officers for four of those years.
That involvement began when their son Braeden, who now attends Ball State University, was in the North marching band. Their next-oldest son, Evan, a senior, has participated the past four years.
The Raymers were involved in marching band themselves when they attended North Side High School in Fort Wayne.
Geoffrey Raymer said marching band today has a greater emphasis on use of props and choreography in performances compared to when he was in school.
However, other things haven’t changed.
“It’s the same sense of family and the amount of dedication,” Wendy Raymer said.
The 40 to 50 band boosters support the close-knit group of teens by providing lunch and transporting equipment on and off the performance field.
Geoffrey Raymer, a physician who moved to Columbus nearly seven years ago, said a good marching band program was one factor his family considered when deciding on Columbus as their home.
He said he had recognized that the band program was strong, and still is.
He called Sound of North’s trip to the state band championship this year “icing on the cake.”
Geoffrey Raymer said time-management skills students learn during marching band is important, especially since they put in so many hours.
Wendy Raymer also said students are able to develop a strong work ethic.
“They all rely on each other and that’s an important lesson in life,” she said. “It’s been an incredible experience.”
“It’s the whole sense of community and what they accomplish as a group,” Geoffrey Raymer said.
The Raymers also credit marching band in providing a comfortable atmosphere for the teens.
“It’s the center of the social group and the hub of everything they do,” he said.
Evan Raymer, who plays snare in the drum line, said marching band has been one of the biggest parts of his life.
“Going to state my senior year, I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” he said.
“At the end of the day, you’re tired and you’re hurting, but it feels great and it’s just rewarding,” he said.
It may not be the end of the line for the Raymers and marching band.
Although Evan will be graduating this year, the Raymers are hopeful their two other sons — Landon, 9, and Caedmon, 7 — will continue the family tradition of being involved with marching band.
“I can’t see that they would not want to do this,” Evan said.
The Raymers aren’t the only North family where marching band involvement has spanned generations.
Glen Haegele, whose daughter Kathleen is in her fourth year with the Sound of North, was also involved in marching band as a student at Champaign Central High School in Illinois, he said.
His son, Greg, was also in the Sound of North marching band and now attends Purdue University.
Haegele said his two children benefited from their band involvement.
“It forced them to be more disciplined on the academic side,” he said. “It’s been a really good experience.”
He also said he enjoys being able to interact with other families, in addition to seeing his daughter perform.
“I took it as a blessing to spend time with my daughter doing something she likes,” Haegele said.
Kathleen Haegele said band has allowed her to grow and develop as a person.
“Band is 100 percent a team activity and if you don’t work as a team, you’ll fail,” she said.
She also credited the parents and other family members for their continued support.
Kathleen Haegele said she was pleased with the Sound of North’s performance Saturday, calling the first-time trip to state finals a major milestone of her band career.
“We’re very, very happy we were able to get to state,” Kathleen Haegele said.
North’s most recent appearance in the Class A state band finals had been in 2012, which was the ninth time in previous 18 years that the Sound of North advanced to the finals.
The band’s highest finish in state competition has been seventh place, which the North band earned in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2009.
But she and the 160 other Sound of North members aren’t quite done for this year.
They will work to make necessary improvements for a return trip to Lucas Oil Stadium Nov. 10 to 12 during the Music for All’s Band of America Grand National Championships.
Nearly 100 bands will compete the first two days with the top 30 advancing to the Saturday semifinals. The top 12 will advance to that night’s finals.
Here are the rankings in Class A, for the largest schools, in the Indiana State School Music Association State Marching Band Finals, held Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
3. Homestead – Ft. Wayne
4. Castle – Newburgh
5. Center Grove – Greenwood
8. Lawrence North – Indianapolis
9. Columbus North
10. Carroll – Ft. Wayne