Heritage Hills eyes bright marching band future

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY — Members of the Heritage Hills Marching Patriots are currently writing the beginning of a new legacy.

After a multi-year hiatus from competition, the band is back. The 47-member group is on the docket for two contests this season — its first judged events since 2013.

Heritage Hills’ return to the competitive spotlight is the result of a concentrated effort that has taken the kids from an extremely inexperienced bunch that played only stand-still routines at home football games to a shapeshifting team of performers equipped with props, full choreography and a big sound.

The ensemble placed second in its contest return last month at the North Posey High School Field of Dreams Invitational. Members also earned recognitions for having the best guard, best percussion and best drum majors in their class.

Saturday, Heritage Hills will travel to the F.J. Reitz Drill on the Hill invitational and perform at 6:57 p.m. CDT. It marks the band’s final contest of the season. Looking to the future, their leader has his sights set on much, much more.

“It’s definitely been an uphill three years,” said Director Keith Dossett. “And we plan to try to push even further. We want to push to that limit we can, and slowly try to creep up a little more.”

That means three or four contests in 2019. Maybe four or five in 2020. Dossett’s ultimate goal is to eventually attain a caliber at which the Marching Patriots perform at six or seven contests a year and compete in the Indiana State School Music Association’s regional, semistate and state circuit.

It’s not that they haven’t been there before, it’s just been awhile. Heritage Hills has placed in the top 10 in Open Class C in the ISSMA State Finals nine times in program history. That includes earning seventh place in 2011, ninth place in 2007 and 2005, and eighth place in 2004.

But that was then. And Dossett isn’t shy about it. When he became director in the fall of 2016, the band was in rough shape. They started from square one that year and built the foundation of a modern marching unit.

Meanwhile, Dossett’s wife, Katie, revamped the color guard program.

In the not-too-distant past, the kids played in the school’s football stadium stands, walked out onto the field at halftime, performed while standing stationary and that was it. The routine is now much more involved.

The Marching Patriots played pop songs and marched in a limited fashion in Dossett’s first year as director. In year two, the band played a Cirque du Soleil-themed show that bumped up the stakes. This year, the bar rose again.

Titled “The World We’re In,” this season’s four-movement routine highlights music from across the globe with songs that tap into Spanish, Eastern Asian, Irish and African themes.

“For some of them, this is the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do,” Dossett said. “But I think for the most part, they’re adapting well.”

Percussion section leader Zeb Etienne, a senior tenor drum player, said the band’s intensity has upped in the past few years. He likes pushing himself, and has personally seen his work ethic shift from nonchalance to a steady grind of improvement under Dossett’s leadership.

When he looks back on his marching career, Etienne will remember the role he had in building the foundation of what is to come for the growing band.

“I was part of that group that got competitive marching back into Heritage Hills,” he said. “So, I was part of that movement that Mr. and Mrs. Dossett started. And I just think that was really cool, that I get to be one of those leaders that they might think about in later years.”

Drum major Rachel Wilson agreed.

“You know, I’m going to brag about it,” the senior said with a laugh. “I’m pretty excited. I can’t wait to see where the program is in five or 10 years.”

When Dossett took over, he remembered how it seemed like no one in the football game crowds cared to watch when the band played. A few people paid attention in 2017. But this year, at the last home game of the regular season, Dossett turned his attention away from the field during a performance and saw a very different scene.

“I look behind, and most of the people in the stands are clapping along with us,” he reflected. “It was super exciting. And that meant so much to our kids. To finally be recognized by other people.”