Johnstown's Big Red Band is welcoming back Marc Zirille as its director.

It's a homecoming for Johnstown-Monroe High School's Big Red Band after former director Marc Zirille was hired to take back the helm of what's known as the pride of Johnstown.

As first reported, the school board approved hiring Zirille during an emergency meeting May 26.

Superintendent Dale Dickson said 45 candidates had been considered for the position.

"I think he's clearly the choice for a seamless transition," Dickson said. "It's exciting. He has tremendous passion for Johnstown. The band has grown over the years. I think he will build strong relationships with these students to give the strongest performance. He was very impressive."

Zirille will be paid an annual salary of $49,603, plus two supplemental contracts totaling $16,794.

District treasurer Zachary Niblick said the district-paid portion of benefits for health, dental and life insurance for a family would be $18,555 annually if Zirille elects to take the coverage.

The other top candidates considered for J-M band director were Michael Reeves, Fredericktown High School band director and Johnstown alumnus, and Zak Wilkins, Newark City Schools band director, who withdrew from consideration the day of a scheduled presentation to the board.

Zirille, a Pataskala resident, left Johnstown's Big Red Band in 2008 to become director of the Olentangy Orange High School band.

The 2000 graduate of Ohio University had built the Big Red Band from 60 members to 175.

In a letter to families of the Olentangy Orange band, Zirille shared that Joe Carver had decided to leave the Big Red Band to pursue his Ph.D. in music education at Ohio State University.

"This opened up a window of opportunity to go back to my home and possibly work with my wife (Angela, Adams Middle School band director) and teach my own children the subject that I love most," he wrote. "This has not been an easy decision, as I love my students and the Orange community and school with much passion."

Many Big Red band supporters have taken to social media to welcome Zirille back to Johnstown.

"It's a great day for the Johnstown schools and community to have you home," Marianne Bright posted. "Go Big Red Band."

"Welcome Back," wrote Debbie Martin. "Can't think of anyone better to continue the tradition of pride and excellence. Can't wait."

"It's going to be great having you back, Mr. Z.," Rachel Edwards said.

"Strike up the band and let the wonderful music continue to flow from the Johnstown- Monroe school district bands," said Ruth Ann Booher, school board president.

When Zirille was asked how his leadership would inspire a smooth transition from Carver, he said J-M should continue to honor Carver for his outstanding work with the music students and community.

"I believe the word honor is a distinguished word that clearly describes the exemplary leadership style Joe provided our students," Booher said. "We will always value Mr. and Mrs. Carver for their past and continued support of our district and hope they will continue living in Johnstown, allowing us to be the village that helps them raise their precious children."

The screening committee for the band-director position included Dickson, Carver, vocal music director Melody Cox, JOLT director Jeff Rings and administrative-services director Debbie Seibel.