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The Journal Gazette

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Ed King, who has been North Side marching band director for 43 years and has been to the state finals 33 times, says starting band practices earlier would encourage participation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:15 pm

Director: Keep kids involved

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

Ed King sits in the director’s chair and speaks to the 135 students who are in his marching band. They have just finished practice and are sitting on the asphalt of a North Side High School parking lot, hanging on to his every word. 

He doesn’t have to shush or threaten.

They listen.

He has been the North Side marching band director for 43 years, and 44 years ago, he was a student teacher there.

"We’ve been to the state finals 33 times," he says with pride.

He’s not ready to retire just yet, but the day will come for this 1968 South Side graduate. Before he leaves, he would love to see a schedule change that exists at some of his better competitors’ schools.

Band practice would start during the last period of the day, around 1:30 p.m., and would last two hours. Middle school band directors would come to the high school to become part of the band staff, paid through a stipend.

The current system has King visiting his feeder middle schools during the day, something all the high school band directors do and a move that FWCS hopes will build participation.

Often, band and orchestra students are lost between the eighth grade and freshman year, King said.

If the schedule King prefers were put into place, more kids could participate in band and then even go on to a sports practice.

That schedule change involves funding and staffing issues, said FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman, who could not comment on whether the change is being contemplated. 

King has a staff of eight that includes a drill writer, music arranger, color guard choreographer and assistant choreographer. He is awed when he hears of the suburban bands with staffs of 27 people.

In the 1980s, the North Side marching band had about 230 members. In the 1990s, around 200.

"We have more than our share of kids who continue," said King, whose grandson, Nate, is a trumpet player with the North Side band and whose son, Aaron, is the band director at Anderson Preparatory Academy in Anderson.

His assistant band director, Marcus Farr, is an alumnus band member who is also the director of the IPFW pep band.

King is also a founder and director of the New Millenium Jazz Band. One of his saxophone players is Kenny Woods, music director at Wayne High School.

King sees the "b instrumental" program, launched last month to raise money to pay for instruments, as part of the administration’s effort to support the arts. 

"Fort Wayne Community Schools has been really good about that," he said. "The city wants to give the kids the same opportunity, just like they do in the ’burbs."