The 2015-16 Northland High School marching band will have 67 members, down from the 100 or so who routinely performed halftime shows and concerts in past years.

The 2015-16 Northland High School marching band will have 67 members, down from the 100 or so who routinely performed halftime shows and concerts in past years.

The program had great stability and considerable success under C. Rick Eckler, who served as director of instrumental music for the past 15 of his 32-year career as a music educator.

Eckler retired several weeks before the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Alex Gerhard, the third new band director in as many years at Northland, and new assistant director Sarah Shively both want to return the program to the glory it once enjoyed.

The turnover at the position and the lack of continuity led to some student musicians becoming discouraged and is why the number wanting to play in the band is down, Gerhard said.

"I get that," he said. "It's unfortunate that's the case."

But, Gerhard added, he and Shively are going to do the best they can with the students they have, including some who had never before picked up an instrument.

"We want to create a positive environment for band in Northland," said Gerhard, 24, who graduated in 2013 from Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in music education.

"I think we've got the passion and fire to get that done," said Shively, 22, a 2015 Otterbein University graduate.

The new director and his assistant are both products of the Pickerington Local School District -- Gerhard from Pickerington North and Shively from Pickerington Central.

Shively said she has one advantage in settling into the program at Northland High School: She did her student teaching at Woodward Park Middle School, so some of the musicians she knew there will be freshmen in the Vikings band.

"It was such a good experience student teaching in the area, and I kind of fell in love with it," Shively said.

Gerhard, who played trumpet for one year with the Ohio State University Marching Band, said he's wanted to be a music teacher since he was in eighth grade.

"That's something I've always had a passion for," he said. "Music was something I kind of gravitated to, something I always excelled at."

"My band director did a lot for me and I wanted to do the same thing for other kids," Shively said.

With only one day of band camp under their belts, interrupted by new-teacher orientation, Gerhard said last week that he and Shively would try to model the Northland program on the one they knew as students in Pickerington.

"It seems like it's working pretty good," Gerhard said. "We are a little bit stricter than they were last year. Basically, the kids want structure right now. I think as time goes by, it will start to heal itself."

"I think being young, the good side of that is that we're both very excited," Shively said. "We've worked really hard to get the opportunity to give music to children."

Band camp provides an opportunity for students to memorize the music, work on routines, develop leadership and learn to take instruction, Gerhard said.

All that preparation, he added, will be on display at halftime of the Aug. 28 opening game at Independence High School and the Sept. 4 home opener against Whitehall-Yearling High School.

The show will be a tribute to the band, Earth, Wind and Fire, Gerhard said.