Second trip to state sets new standard for Jeeps

Northeast Dubois senior Leslie Moya, left, and sophomore Ayane Mundy hugged as the Marching Jeeps prepared to compete in Saturday's ISSMA Marching Band Scholastic Class Finals at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald


INDIANAPOLIS — It wasn’t the ending they hoped for, but after their second consecutive Indiana State School Music Association Marching Band Scholastic Class Finals appearance Saturday, the Northeast Dubois Marching Jeeps are excited about a new standard they have set for future bands at the school.

Simply put: State or bust.

“I think anything less than this would be really disappointing,” Band Director David Fox said as the Jeeps packed up and prepared to leave the contest Saturday at Lawrence Central High School in northeast Indianapolis. “I see no reason why it can’t continue. I definitely expect it, and I think (the kids) do, too.”

Only the top five bands in each class were announced at the Scholastic B Class awards ceremony following the competition, and the Jeeps were not called. Danville High School took home the championship title for the second year in a row. Sixteen bands from across Indiana performed in the class.

Fox said he is proud of the way the Jeeps have grown in the past few years. He reflected on how far the 25-member band has come — from consistently finishing at the bottom of the rankings at local exhibition competitions throughout the season and never getting close to qualifying for state as recently as three years ago, to bagging first-place finishes at those same competitions and scoring other special distinctions over the last two seasons.

“When you go from the band that loses every single competition and gets the lowest scores out of everyone to winning ... it’s pretty cool,” said Harley Hall, the band’s drum major.

Northeast Dubois senior Harley Hall conducted the Marching Jeeps during their musical warm-up at Saturday's ISSMA Marching Band Scholastic Class Finals at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald

Hall took over as drum major as a sophomore in 2015. Now a senior, he said he realized his marching band career was over as soon as Danville was announced the victor.

“It’s almost like a burden off because it’s such a stressful time, but to never be able to be drum major again is a little hard to fathom,” he said.

Hall is among three senior players who led the group through its turnaround and will graduate this spring. The others seniors are tenor saxophone player Lydia Miller and percussionist Leslie Moya. Fox said replacing them will be tough because they are all talented, but he noted the group will feature a whopping 10 seniors next year, meaning the 2018 Jeeps will be one of the most experienced outfits the school has fielded in recent years.

“On paper and in reality, next year’s senior class is going to be very talented,” Fox said. “There’s some good things to look forward to with that group. Pretty pumped up for what we have lined up next year.”

Jeep parents are also excited for what the future holds.

“I see kids coming up and I think there’s more of a desire to be in band as Mr. Fox has taken over,” said Brian Harrison, father to freshman percussionist Jackson Harrison. “I think he’s done an excellent job. I think the interest in being in band is growing. More than likely, I’d say we’ll be back (at the finals).”

The Northeast Dubois Marching Jeeps performed "Expand and Contract" during Saturday's ISSMA Marching Band Scholastic Class Finals at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald

Perhaps the most shared belief among parents and members of the band is that Fox is responsible for the band’s growing success. The director responded humbly when told of his widespread praise.

“That’s nice, but probably only half the story,” he said. “There’s a lot of parents here doing a heck of a lot of work. A lot of kids ... they’re not giving themselves enough credit.”

Fox, now in his fifth year with the program, said he doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. State might be the new standard, but the group is still hungry for more.

“I just think they knew what was expected and they knew what it took to get to where they wanted to go, and they were ready for it,” Fox said. “And I think next year, we’ll be able to build on that again and hopefully go in the right direction some more.”

More on