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CHS band making a comeback

Posted: October 31, 2014 2:19 p.m.
Updated: November 3, 2014 1:00 a.m.
Courtesy CHS Band Facebook page/

Camden High School (CHS) Band Director Robert Spitler (far right) with the CHS band.

 

After an eight-year decline in band participation, Camden High School’s (CHS) band is slowly but surely making a comeback. Robert Spitler took over as band director in 2012 with two goals in mind: to increase band membership and gain back community support.

When Spitler entered CHS, the number of students involved in band was relatively small. He said band membership began to dwindle in 2003 and stayed low until 2011.

“There were barely 15 members at one time,” Spitler said.

Prior to 2003, CHS’ band thrived. The band got its first taste of success in the 1960s and ’70s when it was led by Bill Basden. Under his direction, the band competed in several state competitions and won several titles including three grand championship state titles.

“Camden’s band was a formidable force when Basden was director,” Spitler said. “They were a hugely great band back then that produced many great musicians.”

Under the 26-year (1976-2002) direction of Robert Wertz, the band placed first and second in several state competitions. According to Wertz, the band finished in the top three in state championships eight to 10 times and received 68 consecutive superior ratings. Also, under Wertz’s direction, the band attended more than 100 competitions. Another major accomplishment for the band at that time: receiving the Outstanding Performance Award -- given to bands that excel in areas of marching, concert, solo and ensemble -- 21 times. Wertz said he had between 115 and 130 members in band each year when he served as director.

After Wertz retired in 2002, a major drop in student interest for band occurred. Including Spitler, there have been five to six directors between 2002 and 2012.

Spitler said he has 52 members in band this year, 17 more than last year. However, the size of the band last year did not stop them from working hard. With fewer than 40 members, CHS only missed going to the state competition by half a point.

“The students have really been working hard,” Spitler said. “We are trying to bring that excellence back and raise the bar.”

Aside from providing effective practice sessions where he has students work heavily on their sound and technique, Spitler has also been working to build up the band by recruiting current CHS students and 8th grade students from Camden Middle School (CMS). Spitler said CMS Principal Byron Johnson and CMS Band Director Nancy Neal have helped in the recruitment process by allowing himself and CHS band members to talk to 8th grade students and perform for them.

“We’ve got everybody involved in recruitment,” Spitler said. “We have sent letters home to parents and sent them to administrators as well.”

Eighth grade students can fill out interest sheets and with the permission of their parents, they can be bused to CHS to practice.

Spitler said about 80 percent of the 8th grade class has expressed interest in being a part of the CHS band.

Wertz is happy to see the band getting back in shape again and has high hopes for its future.

“The number and quality of the band is growing again,” Wertz said. “Spitler and his staff are doing a good job and have things headed in the right direction.”

Although Spitler is proud of his work with the band, he said one thing that is lacking is support from the community.

“We’re really wanting people to get behind us and help us do better,” said Spitler.

Increased membership means more need for financial support. On top of needing support to meet the needs of a growing program, Spitler said instruments also need to be updated.

Spitler is expecting to have 75 to 80 members next year.

 

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