In a small town of 15,000 residents, Siloam Springs High School has a band with a big dream—to march in the Rose Parade. After years of hard work plus lots of community involvement, that wish finally came true.
Photos by Ken Martinson/Marching.com
The residents in the small town of Siloam Springs, Ark., have long been proud of the success enjoyed by the high school’s marching band, but this time around, they were smelling roses as the band participated in the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade. Head director Keith Rutledge helped the band reach even greater heights than before. Armed with new facilities and the community’s involvement, Rutledge put the band and the town in the spotlight for the world to see.
Halftime: Tell me a little about your background.
Rutledge: I had taught for eight years at the junior high level, and I started applying for high school positions. Siloam Springs had an opening, and I got it and I have been here ever since [for about 25 years]. I am a graduate of Arkadelphia (Ark.) High School and went to a small liberal arts school called Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. In the band world, the school is the home of William Francis McBeth, who is a very well-known band composer. I got my bachelor’s there and went on to teaching. I have never marched drum corps, but I have followed it for about the past 30 years or so and haven’t missed DCI finals since 1977.
Halftime: Congratulations on your first Rose Parade invitation. How did you achieve it?
Rutledge: We started applying a couple of years ago, and we had built a resume to that time such as the Hollywood Christmas Parade in 2005, the Arkansas representative to the 2009 Inaugural Parade and marched last year in the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. Our band program has been highly rated in the state of Arkansas for 40 or 50 years, longer than I have been here. We have received nothing but superior ratings since the late ’70s or early ’80s. All of this fed into the application process. When we were turned down or not given an invitation, we just kept trying, and we would ask what we would need to improve on, and we would use the input to give them something along the lines of what they are looking for [such as more parade competitions], and now we finally got in.
Halftime: How did the band prepare for the parade?
Rutledge: We [had] been practicing the infamous “TV corner,” and we [had] that mapped out in our parking lot. I went on Google Earth and superimposed that spot, and put it on the football field to get some idea of how to mark it off. One of the few five-lane streets in the town [had] been blocked off for us to march up and down until we [had] accumulated five miles of work.
Halftime: How has your community supported the band?
Rutledge: The community has been awesome. We have gotten a lot of support, and Wal-Mart for instance has given us excellent backing as they have donated the most to us, more money than our band boosters could have raised. Besides them, we have gotten a lot of smaller donations through fundraisers. … Our local paper wrote about us. There are only about 15,000 people living here, and we are a one high school town. They are very proud of this band.
Halftime: Tell us about the high school’s cutting-edge band room.
Rutledge: The band room is about 3,600 square feet with a number one rehearsal area for the marching band and a smaller secondary rehearsal room that will be great for wind ensemble along with a big storage area. We also have a percussion rehearsal [space] that has the appropriate acoustics in order for the percussion section to practice without alerting the entire school. We also have large HD projectors in each of the rooms where we can watch our shows or watch other bands performing.
Halftime: How did you secure funding for the renovation?
Rutledge: Our district saw the need for a new facility due to the large size of the band, so there was an initiative in the community to pass a property tax increase to help fund this new facility. Even though the economy is at a low point right now, we stressed to community leaders not to forget about our education. The increase passed with a 2-to-1 margin, and we are very grateful for the locals coming through.
About the Author
Jeremy Chen is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Southern California (USC). He marched cymbals for two years at Rancho Cucamonga High School before playing bass drum and snare at Upland High School. He is currently a cymbal player and office staff member for the USC Trojan Marching Band. He aspires to one day become a correspondent for the BBC.