The ball started rolling last May when Phil Maund, principal at Cumberland Junior Secondary, asked band teacher Joanne Hawthorn to arrange something for this year’s Empire Days parade in the small Comox Valley community.
Since that time, the Cumberland Marching Band has become a sizable outfit that is leaving an indelible mark at each of its performances.
“It’s been so fantastic,” said Hawthorn, whose group includes musicians from Cumberland, Royston, Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay and Highland Secondary in Comox. “It’s a ton of work but it’s a ton of fun.”
According to Hawthorn, it is the only marching band on Vancouver Island.
She said the group was the “talk of the Valley” following its debut at the Empire Days parade in Cumberland, winning the $1,000 first overall prize.
The band also took part in the Canada Day parade in Courtenay, then performed at the Campbell River festivities on the same day.
At Vancouver Island MusicFest July 8 to 10, the group participated in a workshop with the MarchFourth Marching Band of Portland, Ore.
As of September when it formed, the group had raised nearly $30,000. It has received upwards of $21,000 in donations from service clubs and businesses in the Comox Valley.
Terry Grant, star of the Mantracker television show, helped raise more than $7,000 at a recent dinner event at the Cumberland Recreation Institute. The money will be used to purchase new equipment and uniforms.
“That was a huge effort from parents,” Hawthorn said.
Remaining money will help fund a week-long trip to the 2012 Calgary Stampede.
“There’s 350,000 people that watch that parade, plus it’s televised. We’re really hoping that it brings attention here.”
After the five-kilometre parade in Calgary, group members will have an opportunity to watch dozens of top-notch bands at the world marching showband championships.
The Cumberland Marching Band consists of 27 members ranging from 12 to 19 years. Hawthorn would like to see it grow to at least 40 people.
Members need a musical background. For instance, they need to know how to play an instrument proficiently.
“We’ll take anybody,” she said. “(But) They need to be more than a first-year player.”
The program will essentially start from scratch in September, since the band might have doubled in size by that time.
For more information, contact Hawthorn at the school at 250-336-8511.