Pickerington High School North's new band director said he hopes to continue the "tradition of excellence" established by his predecessor, while building the program and showcasing the work of music education students.

When the North Marching Panthers take the field in Panther Stadium on Aug. 24 for the football team's opening game against Olentangy Liberty, the band will do so under the leadership of the second director in the school's history.

Greg Benson is the new director of bands at North, taking over for Marc Parulekar, who stepped down at the end of the 2017-18 school year to become a beginning band teacher at the Pickerington Local School District's middle schools and as the district's music coordinator.

Parulekar had been North's director since the school's inaugural year in 2003.

Benson is a 2008 Thomas Worthington High School graduate who earned a music education degree from Otterbein University in 2012.

He said he is eager to step into the role and kick off his tenure after serving the last four years as assistant band director at Grove City High School.

"There's certainly the excitement of being the new part of a very, very established program," Benson said. "I truly love what I do.

"I'm anxious to show the Pickerington community and the larger community of central Ohio, and then regionally, what Pickerington North has to showcase this year in the fine work of our students. It's an exciting endeavor."

Benson also spent two years as band director at Gallia Academy High School and Middle School in the Gallipolis City School District.

He has experience as both an assistant and a director, and he's led small bands -- 38 students in Gallia -- and large ones -- 250 members at Grove City.

He also spent the summer of 2011 marching with the Phantom Regiment Drum & Bugle Corps from Rockford, Illinois, as a conductor.

At North, Benson said he will lead a marching band that has 190 members. He also will direct three concert bands.

His inaugural year is expected to see his students working to qualify for statewide Ohio Music Education Association competitions and traveling to Indianapolis for a Bands of America competition that will pit them against bands from the Midwest and other parts of the country.

Additionally, the North Marching Panthers and the Pickerington High School Central Marching Tigers will perform jointly in the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day in Pasadena, California.

"It's great for our students to see what other students are doing in marching bands all across the country and then put on our best show for the audience there," he said.

Parulekar said Benson was a great addition to the North family and he expects him to ne successful.

"He is an outstanding teacher, talented musician and an even better person," Parulekar said. "Mr. Benson brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Marching Panthers and will help our students continue to grow and develop as people and musicians.

"The future is very bright for the students of the Pickerington North band program."

Benson credited Parulekar with building an "incredible" program widely respected in Ohio and said the North band director's position was one he's coveted for years.

In recent months, Benson has sought to learn more about the program and its traditions, as well as what makes students value being part of the band.

He now is focused on honing students' skills so they can have positive experiences and excel in performances and competitions.

"Getting to know students on an individual basis is something I really value because students want to know that they are valued," Benson said.

"There's a lot to know, for sure, but I can tell you that interacting in this first few weeks of rehearsals, the personalities and the work ethics of the kids are awesome."