The band programs at tradition-rich Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North are gearing up for big things this football and marching season.

From runs at state football championships, to the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California, and performances and trips to places like London and Orlando, the marching bands at both Central and North have charged up their schools' fans and showcased their talents on the biggest of stages.

But a new school year brings new bands.

Now, Central band director Nathan Stowe and North band director Greg Benson once again find themselves challenged to build their respective groups into musical units that carry the traditions in new ways.

At Central, Stowe is focused on preparing the 194-member Marching Tigers for the Pickerington Lions Club's Labor Day Parade and Fish Fry, the Pickerington Band Fest, a performance in Ohio Stadium for the Buckeye Invitational and Central football games.

"We are roughly 12 members stronger then last year," Stowe said. "There is much growth in the younger grades still to come."

At North, Benson will have around 160 students in the Marching Panthers band. He is is readying them for the upcoming football season, the Pickerington Band Fest, an Ohio Music Education Association competition and a return to Indianapolis to take part in the Bands of America, a "super-regional" competition featuring roughly 80 bands.

"We are very excited for the start of the 2019 Pickerington North Marching Band season and the progress of our students thus far," Benson said. "They have been working diligently throughout the summer to prepare for this year and have already made great strides."

North's band has projected growth in future years based on the strength of middle-school feeder programs but this year's Marching Panthers band is similar in size to last year's.

Benson said he was encouraged by the work students put in at band camp this summer, and he believes they'll build momentum as the football season and competition season progress.

"Our students did attend band camp this summer, which we host right here," he said. "This week of intensive training is when the ensemble learns a bulk of their marching skills, music and field drills for the season and really begins to bond as a band family.

The camp was held July 28 through Aug. 2 at the high school.

Central's band members also took part in a local band camp the last week of July, where cohesion was a common theme.

"We focused on fundaments of marching, playing, learning portions of our show and growing together as an organization," Stowe said.

Stowe said those who come out for Central football games and to see his band this fall will be treated to shows that highlight current events and the emerging talents of various sections of the band.

Additionally, they'll get to see "the occasional Script Tigers" if weather and field conditions permit, and "With One Small Step," an ode to the Apollo 11 space odyssey in 1969 that first landed humans on the moon.

At North football games, Benson said, his band will perform portions of its 2019 competitive program, "Every Time a Bell Rings."

He said the program was created by his program's design team and explores the role bells play in everyday life and throughout history, including to mourn, celebrate or mark the passage of time.

"This year, we certainly will continue to serve our community and school teams through performance at home and away football games, and will also compete in OMEA and BOA competitive events throughout the end of September and October, culminating in OMEA State Marching Band Finals in early November," Benson said. "The PHSN Marching Band had a landmark season last year, advancing significantly our placement in the BOA Indianapolis Super-Regional, which we certainly hope to attain again this year.

"But first and foremost, our goal is to always exceed ourselves, and continue to strive to reach and inspire our audiences whenever and wherever we perform."

Stowe said he'll strive to prepare students to succeed in competitions, and to drive home the philosophies of serving others through music and growing as people.

"We are looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon, the Pickerington Band Fest, performing in Ohio Stadium at the Buckeye invitational, supporting Tiger Football and participating in community and charity events like the Labor Day parade and Lions Club Fish Fry and supporting the Ronald McDonald House," he said.

"We hope to continue to develop students into quality musicians and even better young adults that understand the importance of hard work, commitment, relationships and teamwork."

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