CUYAHOGA FALLS — Who would have thought that getting marching band alums together "one more time" would have stretched 50 years?
Even Susan Madigan, who graduated in 1969, said she has been surprised at how long the Pride Alumni Band has lasted, and is still going strong.
"When Mr. [Robert] Feldbush told me ‘All right, Susan, one more time,’ I never dreamed that we’d be here 50 years later," said Madigan, who is credited with founding the alumni band. "But it has grown."
Madigan, who plays flute and piccolo in the band, said she pestered Feldbush, the longtime director of the Cuyahoga Falls High School Tiger Marching Band, to have alumni of the high school’s marching band come together to perform. Finally, Feldbush relented and let them perform during the annual Preview of the Bands.
"I was told to get a group together," Madigan said. "We marched straight down the field and played Tiger Rag, and the crowd went wild. Feldbush looked at me like ‘Oh Lord, you started something.’"
That "something" will celebrate its golden anniversary by playing at this year’s Preview of Bands Aug. 13 at 7 p.m, at Cuyahoga Falls High School’s Clifford Stadium. Feldbush, who last directed the Alumni band in 2006, will return to conduct the band.
This is one of the big annual events the Pride Alumni Band gets together for every year, said Mark Bowers, who has performed in the alumni band since he graduated in 1985. The other events include the Cuyahoga Falls Memorial Day Parade and Stow’s Fourth of July Parade.
For this past Memorial Day parade, 64 alumni band members turned out, with graduates ranging from the class of 1966 to the class of 2018, Bowers said.
"The majority of the members are from 2010 to 2018," Bowers said.
Bowers, who is a percussionist, said he is not the only band member in his family. His daughter, who graduated last year, was in band for four years, playing the flute and piccolo. His son, who is on the tuba line, will be a junior at Cuyahoga Falls High School in the coming school year.
"Two years ago, we had seven members of the same family," in the Alumni Band, Bowers said. "You have a lot of families who have gone through the Tiger band. You can see the generations."
Bowers called the Alumni Band one of the jewels of Cuyahoga Falls. "It’s one of the largest and most active alumni bands."
The band started out small, but grew as the years went by, said Feldbush, who served as assistant director to the high school band in 1959, and was director from 1960 to 1985.
"Not many came out that first year but we kept adding more and adding more," Feldbush said.
Feldbush said the Alumni Band only meets for two rehearsals before the Preview of Bands, so he keeps the program simple. Generally, they play Tiger Rag, which he wrote, a concert number and a drill. This year’s concert number is "My Way," which is also turning 50 years old.
Usually, there are around 130 to 140 alumni who come to the Preview of Bands show, Feldbush said.
"The last year I directed the alumni band, we had 220-some members," Feldbush said. "I think they are trying to get to that number again. They are also trying to get directors and assistant directors to come back."
The Preview of Bands generally features eight or nine area bands who perform, including the current Tiger band and the Alumni Band.
Madigan said she considers it "an honor and a privilege to be thought of as the founder" of the Alumni Band.
"I just wanted to march one more time, that’s all I wanted," Madigan said. "[Feldbush] taught us the meaning of pride, dedication, teamwork … because to be in the band you had to work as a team. If one person went off on their own, that wouldn’t do. He’s earned a lot of respect. If it hadn’t been for him letting us do this, there wouldn’t be an alumni band. He had said, ‘OK, one more time.’ And here we are, 50 years later."
For details, visit https://pridealumni.org online.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, email@example.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC