MORRIS – Morris Community High School marching band director Don Stinson takes great pride in how far the program has come in the five years he’s been a teacher at the school.
The program, which only had 40 students on the roster when he started teaching at MCHS, now has grown to 105 students this year.
“I’ve been trying to build a new identity for the band,” Stinson said. “They had a lot of director turnover before I came here.”
With that new identity Stinson has been thinking about new uniforms, something that wasn’t feasible when he joined the staff, until now.
“The kids take a lot of pride in what they do,” Stinson said. “As the band gets larger, the next step is getting uniforms.”
The new uniforms were discussed Monday by the school board during its regular meeting. No action was taken on the uniforms, but Superintendent Pat Halloran said at the meeting he estimates the district contributing about 50 percent of the cost of the new uniforms. The additional cost will be covered through fundraising.
The hope is to purchase the uniforms as soon as all the money can be raised, likely next school year. Officials still are estimating the number of uniforms to order.
The band boosters started fundraising in January to pay for the uniforms, which Stinson said aren’t cheap.
The uniforms cost $355 to outfit a band member from head to toe, $111 more than the previous uniforms cost the school in 1994. The band is raising the funds through Market Day sales, spaghetti dinners and pie sales.
“The cool thing we’re doing is if someone doesn’t want to buy a pie for themselves, they can buy a pie and donate it,” band student Marcus Schluntz said Monday morning. “We will donate the pies to We Care as a way to give back to the community who supports us.”
Marching bands have changed a lot in the last 10 years, according to Stinson, and the performances are much more athletic than they were in the past.
Since the band started competing it has won several awards, including a best visual trophy.
The visual appearance stands to improve as the uniform goes from the former cardinal red color to the newly designed maroon and gold school colors.
“The new uniform reflects the school better, it’s actually maroon and not cardinal red,” MCHS junior Emmet Chouinard said. “It makes us look more professional.”
The new design also addresses issues students have had with the previous uniforms, including replacing the separate gold sash with a stitched sash that actually is part of the one-piece jacket.
Band members Chouinard and Schluntz said the sashes are easily twisted when trying to get dressed for performance, which will no longer be an issue.
The new jacket also has fewer buttons, which have had to be replaced numerous times on the old uniforms, and are absent on those playing the bass drums due to the harness that holds their drum.
“The new uniforms are much lighter and kids will be more comfortable,” Stinson said. “The band boosters also will no longer have to hem the uniforms, they are designed with snaps to adjust the length of the pants and the sleeves.”
The uniforms were designed by Fred J. Miller Inc., who has designed 10 of the top 12 marching program’s uniforms in the country, Stinson said.
The designer met with Stinson and discussed the old uniform, the community and the school to create a more streamlined uniform that represents MCHS.
While the uniform can’t display the name of the school for competition reasons, the designer cleverly created an “M” in the design on the front of the jacket.
“Marching bands move around a lot and this uniform will give the kids a lot more freedom of motion,” Stinson said.
Schluntz said it would be nice to be able to wear the uniform longer than just part of his senior year, but he’s excited to leave the legacy behind for future marching Redskins.
Halloran told the school board Monday night that the district will support the band with the uniforms the same way it does athletics.
“We’re very appreciative of the booster clubs,” Halloran said. “Next year’s budget will work with the band to use TIF surplus funds to help them.”
The schools can use surplus Tax Increment Finance District funds for any expenditure, but the designated TIF allocation from the city has to be used on capital expenditures.
Halloran said the new uniforms create a sharp clean appearance.
“They represent our school colors and traditions,” Halloran said.