Shift and step: Patriots march into new era

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Heritage Hills High School senior Elliott Masterson awaits instruction during the Heritage Hills marching band practice at the school in Lincoln City on Tuesday. Band director Keith Dossett said the marching band's mindset has shifted to become more serious this year. "The buy-in from them has become much more uniform across the group," he said.


LINCOLN CITY — There’s been a shift at Heritage Hills High School.

Kyleigh Collins feels it before the performances, when she hurls a figurative ball of energy at her color guard instructor. Ethan Fischer senses it at practice, when band director Keith Dossett nitpicks the drill and calls out clashing notes. Drum Major Kailee McClellan has the best vantage point of them all.

As she stands on the podium and orchestrates the band’s exotic routine, she doesn’t see teenagers bumbling about. She sees a flourishing family with its sights set on competitive success and personal growth.

She sees the Heritage Hills Marching Patriots — now in their second season of a revival as a respectable marching band — aiming higher than they’ve aimed in years.

“The overall mindset of the kids is beginning to change,” Dossett said, explaining that the program’s culture has moved from complacency to constant improvement. “Until we started marching again last year with me here, none of the kids had marched competitively. Ever. So, the mindset that was here before is all gone.”

The Lincoln City outfit has performed its “Tales of Arabia” show in two regional invitationals this season, and will cap off its 2019 run with a final routine at the Springs Valley Festival of Marching Bands on Saturday. The Marching Patriots will take the field in Open Class C at 6 p.m.

Before last season, Heritage Hills was limited to stationary performances at home football games. Now, the roughly 50 members in the group weave in and out of complicated patterns as color guard members flip sabres, wave flags and twirl ribbons.

“Each year, we try to push harder,” McClellan said. “And I think that makes us become a stronger band. It helps that we’re all one big family. We’re just there to have each other’s backs and push us on in everything, and encourage each other to do better.”

Dossett and his wife, Katie — who has revamped the color guard program as its leader — have led that charge. Many members of the band and guard praised their leadership as a driving force in the Marching Patriots’ recent revival.

“Last year, it took longer for us to learn our movements,” recalled Elliott Masterson, a senior baritone saxophone player. “We were able to learn the movements a lot faster than we were last year. And musically, we got the music down pretty quickly compared to last year. So, I feel like we’re growing as a band.”

Heritage Hills High School freshman Kyleigh Collins practices for color guard during the marching band practice at the school in Lincoln City on Tuesday.

This year’s routine is a step ahead for the band. Through its music and visuals, it tells the story of a traveler visiting a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia. The show’s four movements range from energetic and in your face, to calm and reflective.

Though Heritage Hills will not compete in the Indiana State School Music Association’s circuit of contests later this fall, getting back to that pinnacle level of competition is a goal for the group. Knowing that they’re blazing the trail of a new legacy is a point of pride for both the upperclassmen and younger marchers.

“I just really like leading and helping other people,” said Olivia Smith, a color guard captain. “And I just think it’s a lot of fun watching our eighth graders from last year grow. I just like pushing them to be better.”

When she first joined the guard, she didn’t fully understand its role. Senior members helped her understand its vitality, and pressed her to become one of the best on the pitch. Now, she’s passing down her skills and expertise to a new generation.

It’s necessary to note that no program member interviewed for this story entered the season with the goal of taking home a first-place finish or a big trophy. Their aspirations were largely the same: To buy into a culture of progress and to focus on furthering the rebuilding process that will one day carry them to ISSMA success.

“I’m super proud of these kids,” Dossett said reflectively. “Just seeing the drive that a lot of them have. I know we’re closing up the season now, but it makes me feel very positive towards next season.”

He continued: “Because if we can hold that drive, then we can go even further next year.”

Before a Tuesday practice, Collins and freshman trumpet player Jonah Schroeder gazed up at the awards that overflow from the tops of towering lockers in the school’s band room.

They want to win. And they know their time will come.

“We’re getting there,” Collins said with a grin.

Editor's note: This story is the first in a weekly series that will highlight our local high school bands.

Heritage Hills Middle School eighth-grader Grace Maurer rests on an instrument case during a break at the Heritage Hills High School marching band practice at the school in Lincoln City on Tuesday.


Heritage Hills High School color guard director Katie Dossett gestures to the marching band while standing on the lift during practice at the school in Lincoln City on Tuesday.


A trumpet sits on the ground during a water break at the Heritage Hills marching band practice at the school in Lincoln City on Tuesday.

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