The 1976 – 1977 school year was filled with mixed emotions for the Greenwood band. The triumph of the Championship win at the State Fair was followed by the sadness at the departure of Director Herman Knoll. Add in the uncertainty when Knoll’s replacement backed out at the last minute and you can see why the school board would have concerns. In fact, in the nine years following Knoll’s departure, Greenwood would see three directors come and go. Middle School Director Dan Rice was a stabilizing factor during those transitions. Rice was hired in 1969 as the first Greenwood Middle School band director. He would remain with Greenwood for 39 years. Rice explains that change was always difficult, but the strength of the program never wavered. Prior to Herman Knoll, Rice dealt with the departure of David Van Veld. “When Dave left, it was traumatic for me. We had become good friends in those years,” he said. The same scenario played out three years later with Knoll’s departure. Rice continues,”So again, it was rather a traumatic thing when I knew he was going to leave.”
The Greenwood school board revisited their director applicants list. Sometime after August 19, an offer was made to Thomas G. Leslie. Leslie accepted in time to accompany the band to the State Fair competition on August 25. Tom Leslie is a graduate of the University of Iowa in Iowa City. He holds an MS degree from Indiana State University and was instrumental director at Bettendorf, Iowa prior to moving to Greenwood. Greenwood Band Boosters officially welcomed their new director with an open house on Wednesday September 15. Director Rice knew the band was in good hands with Leslie. “A great band director. Great strides were made from a change of styles through Herman and through Tom. Great style changes.”
One of the new director’s first performances was the Old Settler’s Day Parade on September 19. The celebration this year also commemorated America’s Bicentennial. The Marching Woodmen paraded down Madison Avenue with Smokey the Bear alongside. Greenwood was awarded first place among all participating bands.
The previous ISMA season saw Greenwood forced to step down from class A competition to class B. After that disappointment, ISMA implemented new rules that would allow bands to compete above their class level. However, in 1977 Greenwood elected to skip the ISMA competition entirely. The band had other priorities. As the defending champion at last year’s Blue and Gold competition in Kentucky, it was a given that the Marching Woodmen would be invited back. But first, the band traveled to a contest in Charlestown, IN on November 6. They earned a second place finish.
On November 13, the band returned to Morehead State University for their third Blue and Gold contest. In stiff competition, the band pulled out a strong third place finish.
Middle school director Dan Rice explained the reasoning behind Greenwood’s spotty ISMA appearances in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In those days, ISMA was competing with the State Fair contest and the level of ISMA competition was not what it is today. Prior to 1983, the entire ISMA season consisted of a district competition and a two-tier competition at finals. There were no invitationals to speak of, so the competition season was literally two days. Rice explains, “Bands that wanted to do more had to look outside the state to do so. Every other year, the ISMA contest conflicted with out of state competitions.”
Band fundraisers never end and the latest this season was popcorn sales. Students hand packed 2,500 pounds of popcorn in containers and sold them door-to-door for $1.
On January 17, 1977 the Indiana House of Representatives honored the Greenwood Marching Woodmen for their 1976 State Fair victory. The Greenwood Wind Ensemble was one of only two Indiana bands invited to perform at a Clowes Hall concert at Butler University in April. Both Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble received first place ensemble ratings at the spring ISMA competition. The Spring Awards Concert was May 19, and it featured performances from all band and choral groups.
At the end of the 1976-1977 school year it was announced that the board-approved schedule for the following marching season would NOT include the State Fair Band Day competition. After two decades competing at the fair, Greenwood would never return. Actually, the decision was made internally back before the 1976 State Fair contest. Competition styles continued to evolve. Herman Knoll was responsible for bringing a drum corps influence to Greenwood and that style was more aligned with bands from the southern states. Southern marching routines were becoming more elaborate and less geometrical. Greenwood was ahead of the curve in recognizing that the evolution of field competition was following the southern model. The wider canvas and longer format of field show competitions offered more opportunity to grow and develop than the State Fair track contest. The Marching Woodmen set their sites on the ISMA State Finals and a new opportunity down south.
A chance meeting in 1977 led to an impressive new hire for the Greenwood program. As Dan Rice relates the tale, Frank Bienas was the band director at Shenandoah High School in Middletown, Indiana. Frank’s impressive band won the State Fair competition in 1972. The band director family was close then and remains so today. It was Frank who suggested to Herman Knoll that he apply to Greenwood in 1973. Frank also mentioned Knoll to Dan Rice as a mutual friend. At a get-together organized by Frank in 1977, Dan Rice met a young, energetic teacher and guard instructor named Pam Smith. Rice said,”I told [Tom], what we need to do is find someone who is a teacher, who will be in the school corporation, who will be in charge of the guard. That’s what you need to do. He asked me if I knew anyone? I said, I only know one.”
Pam was hired in the fall of 1977 and was placed in charge of the newly formed flag and rifle corps. Pam Smith was already very successful as a flag, rifle and drill team coordinator. She had been an instructor with the Mid-America Majorette Association, choreographer/instructor for the Indiana University Marching Hundred Flag Line, flag/rifle camp director for the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and auxiliary coordinator for the Ball State University “Pride of Mid-America” Marching Band. Pam would shake up Greenwood’s flag and rifle corps by adding an Irish flair the following year. As of this writing, Pam is still a driving force behind Greenwood’s Irish Guard. Pam married Ben Davis Band Director Gary Wishmeyer in 1985. Ms. Wish, or simply Wish, has been a pillar of Greenwood Community High School for over 40 years!
September 24, the Marching Woodmen performed a dress rehearsal of their fall field show on the newly installed Woodmen football field. The show featured music from “Carnival Overture”, “Never Never Land / Land of Make Believe”, “Ease On Down the Road”, “Irish Medley” and “What I Did For Love.” After a year off from ISMA competition, the band was ready to dive back in competing in Class A. The first competition of the season was District in Columbus on October 15. Earlier that Saturday, the band marched at the Greenwood Center (Greenwood Park Mall) in conjunction with community activities and as a warmup for their competition later that day. At District, Greenwood received a Division 1 rating and was awarded the Sweepstakes Trophy for Class A. The ISMA State Finals (March-Off) was two weeks later, but the band would take a road trip on October 22 first.
Instead of returning to Morehead, Kentucky, Greenwood traveled to Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro for their first appearance at the Contest of Champions. Similar to Morehead’s Blue and Gold Championship, the Contest of Champions (CoC) began in the early 1960s. Competition was by invitation only. Champion bands were selected from the region including Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. Invitations for Indiana bands were rare. Among the 32 participating bands in 1977, only two were from Indiana. The CoC had a preliminary and finals round. Only eight groups are selected for finals. “It all depends on our first run through,” said a band member. “We’ve got to get it all together on the first try.” The Woodmen gave a strong preliminary performance. They became the first Indiana band to ever make it into the CoC final round. It was also rare for any band to make finals in their rookie year at the contest. “It usually takes two to three years of getting to know the contest before a band makes the finals,” said director Tom Leslie. Greenwood City Councilman, and Band Parent President, Vaino Grayam, wrote a detailed breakdown of the contest and scoring. Placement is determined by combining scores from both performances. The preliminary round has a possible 100 points. Then, the finals round has a possible 90 points for a maximum overall of 190. Greenwood scored 90.5 in the preliminary round. For the night show, the band marched in front of nearly 20,000 spectators. Greenwood secured a 6th place finish with an overall score of 173.6. Band members admitted the competition was impressive. “It’s not like any Indiana contest,” said a band member. “Instead of worrying about beating one or two good bands, there were 32 good bands competing.” Grayam concluded his rundown of the contest by saying,”The ‘Contest of Champions’ is certainly an accurate name for this event. Joseph T. Smith, director of bands at Middle Tennessee State University who runs the contest, richly deserves all the praise he gets. It is because of his efforts that the ‘Contest of Champions’ at Murfreesboro is recognized as the great marching band show that it is.”
Greenwood ended their marching season at the ISMA Finals at ISU in Terre Haute on October 29, 1977 with a 3rd Place finish in Class A.
The following marching season began with a “Kick-off Rally” on June 23, 1978. The community was invited to attend and the ceremony featured speeches by Mayor Larry Myers and Ginger VanValer, executive secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. Local supporters of the band program were recognized including the Greenwood Fire Chief, the Greenwood Police Department, the president of the Kiwanis Club, and, of course, the Greenwood McDonald’s. And, because band fundraisers never cease, for $1 the fire department hoisted parents 85 ft. into the air for a panorama of the city from the basket of their snorkel truck. Director Tom Leslie and middle school director Dan Rice were introduced to applause from the crowd. And, GHS’s first assistant band director, Kim Fillingim, was also introduced. Another impressive debut was the newly formed Irish Guard under the direction of Pam (Wishmeyer) Smith. The guard now added a sabre unit with the rifles and featured new uniforms and flags.
High school marching invitationals were cropping up at the larger schools in Indiana and director Tom Leslie first proposed the idea of a Greenwood Invitational in 1978. But it would not become reality for a couple more years.
The Woodmen Warm-up began at this time. Tom Leslie wanted a specific warm-up tune to play during competitions. Tom contacted Mike Sweeney, who was a composer and arranger, to write the tune. Sweeney would join the Greenwood staff in 1980. The warm-up recalled the Herman Knoll years by featuring “Over the Rainbow.” Knoll had included the tune each year in his Greenwood shows, including their 1976 State Fair winning performance. The Warm-up has become a treasured tradition of the Marching Woodmen that has endured for 40 years. The Woodmen Warm-up will only be played when the director believes the band is ready for state-level competition.
With 180 members, the 1978 Marching Woodmen set a record as the largest GHS band to date. Band camp saw the Woodmen returning to St. Joseph’s College in Renssalear July 31 through August 4. Directors Leslie and Smith were both pleased with the positive attitude and dedicated work displayed by the band veterans and the incoming freshmen.
But the jubilant mood turned to sadness when clarinet Lisa Cordell became ill and had to be hospitalized. The nature of her illness was not disclosed, but her condition grew more serious as the summer progressed. Lisa’s sister Lynn, also a band member, was asked during a band meeting what she did to work harder. “Every time I snap my ankle knee [a marching step] I pray that my strength for that can be given to Lisa to help her get well,” she said. Unfortunately, Lisa did not get well. She died one week after surgery in September. An anonymous letter (likely written by Tom Leslie) stated, “Even though this has been a great tragedy, I feel that the band was given a little bit of Lisa’s courage to take pain and to live on for her.”
The 1978 band calendar did not include ISMA competition. The band focused their energy on their return to Murfreesboro, plus a new competition challenge. But first up was the Old Settler’s Day Parade on September 9. That was followed by the annual Dress Rehearsal show on September 16. The show featured a wide variety in musical selections. Part I “Siegrieds Rhine Journey” by Wagner, Part II “Bless the Beasts and the Children” by Barry De Varzon, Part III traditional Irish Clog, Part IV “Conquistador” by Procol Harum, and Part V “Let It Be Me” by the Pointer Sisters.
Discussing the upcoming season, Assistant Director Kim Fillingim was impressed with the students hard work and dedication. “They realize this is the only way to build a winning season,” he said.
The Marching Woodmen traveled down to Louisville, Kentucky on September 23 for their first outing in the Music Bowl II. Another regional competition, the Music Bowl II featured 30 bands competing at the University of Louisville on the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. Greenwood was the largest band in the competition.
This is the first contest where the Marching Woodmen had to contend with on-the-field judges. Many students were nervous about the possibility of a collision with a judge. The 30 bands were in Class A, AA and AAA, with AAA being the top class. The preliminary round was 9:00am to 4:00pm. Then a break, and finals began at 7:00pm. The scoring broke down as 60% music and 40% marching. Drum Majors Mark Kennedy, Brad Deck and Leigh Ann Gossman were asked about the upcoming contest. “I think we have the potential to be the most competitive band we have ever been,” said Kennedy. Gossman agreed and Deck added, “I think we have one heck of a show!” Greenwood came in second to the Meade County High School Band from Kentucky. The two bands finished first and second in both preliminary and finals rounds. The final scores had Meade County with 85.85 and Greenwood with 85.80. Greenwood won the most caption awards with best auxiliary, flags, marching and rifles.
The band participated in the Central Indiana Marching Band Festival in Lebanon on September 30. Then it was off to Murfreesboro on Friday October 13 for competition on Saturday.
For Greenwood’s second year at Murfreesboro, they faced 31 competitors. The crowd of 15,000 watching finals included over 400 Marching Woodmen fans. Greenwood repeated the previous year with a sixth place finish.
The new Irish Guard had a phenomenal competition season. They competed in the Indiana High School Drill Team Association contest at Lawrence North and earned 1st Place Military Division, 1st place Rifle Line and 1st Place Sweepstakes honors. Next, they captured 1st Place Military Division and Sweepstakes at the contest at Alexandria High School. They then set their sights on the National High School Color Guard Competition in Dayton, Ohio. Again, they won 1st Place in their division.
The Jazz Band under the direction of Kim Fillingim made good use of new sound equipment. They performed public concerts at the Greenwood Center and at GHS basketball games. They were also invited to perform at German Park as part of Methodist Hospital’s annual staff picnic. The Jazz band also had a first place finish at the Dayton, Ohio competition.
Greenwood finished the school year with a “clean sweep” of Division I ratings at the ISMA competition on April 28, 1979. The middle school also received first place ratings under Dan Rice. The year-end concert with music awards was held on May 11.
In June of 1979, Tom Leslie resigned as band director. He accepted a position in Tucson, Arizona to be closer to family. He later became the director at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and is responsible for bringing international acclaim to the UNLV Wind Orchestra. Leslie is still at UNLV, was elected as the 75th President of the American Bandmasters Association and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the John Philip Sousa Foundation.
Once again, the Greenwood School Board had to find a replacement. As band camp approached, no replacement had been selected, which caused concern among band parents. The growing fear was that camp may have to be canceled. “Who’s going to tell these kids if they can’t go?” asked a parent. Greenwood Superintendent, Dr. Earl Blemker, fired back against the charge that they were not being prompt enough in the selection process. “I think the worst thing we could do is hire a band director that’d go out and flub the whole program for them,” he said. A couple candidates took themselves out of the running once they understood the complexities of the program. Blemker continued,”It’s a tough, tough situation. There are very few band directors in the states of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky or Illinois who are qualified to run the kind of program we have had.”
On July 19, Blemker offered the directorship to Stanford Roth from Bluffton, Indiana. He had been the award-wining director at Bluffton-Harrison High School for the past 12 years. Roth was a Ball State grad with a Masters Degree from St. Francis College. He accepted the position and was heading to band camp a week later. Roth’s wife, Gretchen, was also hired as a second grade teacher for Southwest Elementary. New assistant director, and Woodman Warmup composer, Mike Sweeney was also among the hires for the following school year.
Dan Rice had organized a group of instructors for band camp prior to Roth’s arrival. Kim Fillingim was among them, even though he was no longer on staff. Rice discussed the transition,”We had settled to go to band camp. We had a piece of music that we thought we were going to do. Stan did not like that piece of music. So, Kim and I drove back from band camp one day, went through the files and found some things and took them back up there. [That’s how] “Chant and Jublio” became the opener. It was a very hurried situation.”
On August 29 there was a meeting for band parents. Director Roth got everyone up to speed on the upcoming competition season.
Band seniors from the class of 1979 were honored at the annual marching dress rehearsal performance on September 22. Greenwood hosted Beech Grove for Homecoming on October 5. The following day saw the Marching Woodmen return to ISMA competition at District in Columbus. Greenwood remained in Class A and scored trophies for best auxiliary, marching, music, general effect and the coveted Sweepstakes Trophy. They also received their Division 1 Trophy and a slot in the finals competition in Terre Haute. Fears about the new director were calmed that day. A band member said, “I don’t care if we win another trophy this year. Today we proved we could do it, and that’s what is important.” The fears about Director Roth would be completely extinguished on October 13 when the band earned their best-ever finish at ISMA finals. Greenwood finished second, 2 points behind Chesterton.
The following Saturday saw Greenwood’s third appearance at the Murfreesboro’s Contest of Champions in Tennessee. They again earned their best-ever finish at fourth place — a tie with Tennessee State Champion McGavock High School! Greenwood was, again, the only Indiana band to advance to the finals round.
GHS held a series of music workshops beginning on Saturday, February 9 for all students planning to march in the fall. Fundamentals covered all aspects of music and marching. Director Roth’s son, Andy, was a member of the Phantom Regiment drum and bugle corps and he assisted in the instruction. A three-year member of Phantom Regiment’s color guard, Kathy Lange, was also on hand to instruct the Irish Guard. Also in February, the National Band Association voted the Greenwood Marching Woodmen one of the 16 best marching bands in the nation!
The Irish Guard returned to the National High School Color Guard Competition in Dayton. They won second place in their division.
1980 saw school teacher and band parent president Vaino Grayam elected as the sixth mayor of Greenwood. One of his early requests was to have the Greenwood Fire Department send the snorkel truck to GHS on a sweltering August afternoon and provide an artificial rain shower for the kids at the end of band practice. For a short time, the GHS parking lot became a miniature water park.
High school marching invitationals were becoming popular additions to the marching season. Director Tom Leslie’s idea for a Greenwood Invitational was brought to life under Director Stan Roth. In lieu of their traditional dress rehearsal to kick off the season, the Marching Woodmen hosted their first invitational competition. It was held on Saturday September 20 beginning at 2:00pm. This first contest was sponsored in conjunction with Greenwood’s Old Settler’s Day Festival and featured five competitors: Ben Davis, Center Grove, Kokomo-Haworth, Connersville and Lawrence North. As today, the Marching Woodmen performed in exhibition at the end of the contest. Ben Davis won the day.
September 27 was a busy day for the band. They competed in back-to-back competitions at the Kokomo-Haworth and East Noble invitationals. They finished 2nd and 1st respectively.
To help build community support for the band competitions to come, Mayor Vaino Grayam officially proclaimed October 4, 11 and 18 as Greenwood Marching Band Days.
1980 was another year that Greenwood elected to skip ISMA competition to return to Murfreesboro on October 18. Greenwood did choose to compete in the first ISMA round on October 4 at Lawrence Central earning a Division 1 Rating.
The following Saturday, the Marching Woodmen earned first place and captions for best rifles, flags and percussion at the Ben Davis Invitational.
Friday afternoon, October 17, the band boarded their buses to Murfreesboro for their fourth Contest of Champions. Saturday they again earned a spot in the evening finals, performing at 9:00pm and finished the day in eighth place. “It was one of the most exciting performances the kids have ever put on,” said Pam Smith.
In May 1981, Stanford Roth resigned as band director to accept a sales position with Paige’s Music in Fort Wayne. His time with GHS was short, but he maintained the outstanding quality of the band program. Now, the search for a new leader began yet again.
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