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#ValleyBands: Mount Carmel overcomes loss of 25 seniors via teamwork

Mount Carmel band director Bernie Stellar expected this fall to be a rebuilding year for his program.

“We lost 25 seniors to graduation last year,” he said. “When you lose almost a quarter of your band, it can be a challenge.”

Except, this year’s performers have risen to the challenge.

“It has really turned out well so far,” he said. “The kids are really coming together nicely.”

His group is 85 students strong — 70 of them musicians. The numbers reflect Stellar’s philosophy that students should be well-rounded.

“I encourage kids to participate in as many school activities as possible. I try to be lenient, when possible, with rehearsals and give the kids the freedom to participate in a wide variety of programs,” said Stellar, who doubles as the school’s superintendent.

Stellar is well aware of the benefits of participating in the band — something he encourages all students to consider.

“It has been researched and well documented that being involved in music in any way aids academic progress,” he said. “The more lifelong lessons include learning to work together toward a common goal other than winning. It teaches responsibility — you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. It also teaches you how to travel well when we do band trips. I’ve had students come back after being in college and tell me their college friends didn’t know how to travel.”

The students appreciate the connection they make with classmates.

“It’s more than a band — it’s a family,” said senior assistant drum major and band president, Benjamin McFadden.

“Band to me is like a second family,” added senior drum major Mackenzie Witt. “I’ve made countless memories on and off the field, and I absolutely love everything about it.”

Coordinating a performance can be both challenging and rewarding, admitted junior baritone soloist Samantha Darrup.

“You have to learn to work with all kinds of people, doing all sorts of different things at once, trying to remember where you’re supposed to be standing or what you should be playing, all the while you’re in this safe place where everyone is welcome,” she said.

Working with a variety of different peers in the band has actually helped senior trumpet player Zachary Hunter learn more about his individuality.

“To be in a place where one’s voice can be heard indiscriminately is a true joy,” he said. “Being a part of a band is a place where an individual can be themselves freely.”

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