PIQUA — On Friday, as they step onto the field at Alexander Stadium-Purk Field, members of the Piqua High School Alumni Band will do so in celebration of their 47th season.
With its roots in the founding of the high school marching band in 1917 by Phillip P. Gates, the alumni band has become a testament to the tradition and comradeship unlike any other, with former Pride of Piqua band members being the oldest active high school alumni marching band in Ohio.
Many of the band members played in college and some in dance bands. while others just enjoy playing and having fun. Some members live locally. while others come from other parts of Ohio and out of state, showing a dedication to the alumni that was organized in 1971.
These alumni members come from a band rich in history, with Gates founding of the band in the early 1900’s as the group played at rallies to help raise money for war bonds. Likewise, the students played at civic and patriotic programs as much as they did athletic events. Gates also contributed to Piqua’s Alma Mater and Pep Song, writing the words, music and arrangement. These songs were played for the first time during halftime at a Piqua vs. Fairmont game in 1933.
The history and tradition is especially heartfelt by Stu Shear, current president of the 501 (c) (3) group and webmaster of their website: phsalumniband.org. A trumpeter by avocation who also plays with the Tipp City Community Band, Shear has only missed one performance in 47 years.
“I was in the hospital in Columbus for tests and couldn’t make it. I swore I wouldn’t miss another,” Shear said. “The second time, I was late one year as I was returning late from a federal conference in Chicago and had to return to my office, change into my uniform, pick up my trumpet and drive in a downpour from Cincinnati to Piqua to make the halftime show.”
Shear said getting the group together for two practices can be a bit of a challenge with distance, various commitments such as work and family. “Age isn’t a factor as we have a member in his early 90’s still playing with the band.
The organization has an executive committee/board that is elected according to its bylaws and meets several times a year. All alumni band members are encouraged and invited to attend the meetings. The meetings allow members to make decisions for the next year’s events as well as review the groups finances.
The PHS Alumni Band has a history of donating music and instruments to the instrumental music department at the Piqua High School. This year, with grants from the Piqua Community Foundation and the Miami County Foundation plus money donated from private sources and alumni band members, the band was able to purchase six new four-valve euphoniums for the concert band.
This Friday, the band will be performing with the Pride of Piqua and the Jr. High band.
For more information, upcoming events, photos and more history, visit the band’s website, phsalumniband.org.