- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

WAYNE, Neb. (AP) - Brad Weber isn’t sure what to expect when former Wayne High School band students gather for the first time as an alumni marching band next month.

He doesn’t yet know how many will be there or if those who come will have even picked up a musical instrument, much less marched, since they graduated.

The retired band director just expects it to be fun.

“They may not be in step, but just keep a beat. That’s what music’s about, just getting together and connecting again and hopefully sharing some memories,” said Weber, who retired in 2013 after 27 years as the school’s band director.

When Wayne Community School Foundation executive director Lindsay McLaughlin approached him a couple weeks ago about forming an alumni band to march in the Wayne Chicken Show parade on July 9, Weber was all in.

McLaughlin said that while organizing a first-ever all-class reunion for Wayne High alumni to be held in conjunction with the annual Chicken Show celebration, some alums said it would be fun to form an alumni band.

It only made sense, McLaughlin said, to ask Weber to be involved. He’d taught hundreds of kids over the years and was one of the school’s most popular teachers.

“Once they knew Mr. Weber was going to be involved with the alumni band, people got more interested,” McLaughlin told the Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/28WwtBl ).

There’s no doubt that the chance to play for Weber again appealed to those who have already committed to participating.

“Hopefully a lot of people will respond to it because he’s had a lot of students over the years. It was the thing to do in that school was play in the band. They wanted to be in band so they could be in his class,” said Blake Lyon, a 2005 graduate who’s now the band director at Westwood High School in Sloan, Iowa.

Lyon was one of the first to sign up for the alumni band, and Weber said about 16 people of all ages committed in the first few days after Facebook posts and emails went out to alumni a couple weeks ago. Weber’s optimistic about how many alums show up.

“I was hoping for a lot, anywhere from 50, 100, who knows,” said Weber, who still teaches percussion as an adjunct faculty member at Wayne State College.

The band will play a simple cadence and the Wayne High and Wayne State fight songs. Those who aren’t able to march will ride on a trailer with the band so they can play along.

If you don’t have an instrument, no problem. Weber’s working with Wayne State College director of bands David Bohnert and current Wayne High band director Alex Wieland, another of his former students, to organize the band, and both have instruments alumni can borrow for the day.

Wieland, a 2005 Wayne graduate who also will be marching, said there’s an excitement about the alumni band, even from people who will be unable to play in it.

“Most people are thrilled with the opportunity either to perform in the band or watch them play,” he said. “We’ll make do with whoever we have.”

He and Weber both hope that once people see the band marching in the parade, they’ll want to take part next year.

“I’m excited about it,” Weber said. “Maybe this will be the beginning of something that can just kind of explode, each year get more and more.”

This first edition of the alumni band, he thinks, will get the endeavor off on the right note.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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