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“It is our mission as the Quaker Valley High School Marching Band to enthusiastically and consistently strive for the utmost effort from everyone in creating an ever-higher standard of Musicianship. We achieve this by fostering a welcoming, helpful atmosphere of self-motivation, respect and pride. We have pride in ourselves, our band, our school and our community.”
The “Pride of Quaker Valley” High School Marching Band is the most visible musical ensemble at the High School level, and a catalyst for school spirit throughout the community. This organization performs at all home and away football games, and several local parades and other events throughout the year. Any student in grades 9-12 may participate as an instrumentalist or in the Guard, with prerequisites being prior participation or approval of the Band Director. Band camp takes place on the campus of Quaker Valley Middle School late July or early August, with brief preliminary pre-camp rehearsals held in the weeks prior.
The Quaker Valley High School Band program has a very diverse and rich history. In 1956, schools in Sewickley and Leetsdale merged to form the Quaker Valley School District. Dr. George V. Bedison (in whose memory a band award is given every year) was the first superintendent, and Mr. Joseph Helinski was the first Quaker Valley High School band director. The students in the Sewickley and Leetsdale bands were apprehensive about having to form a single band as they had previously been rivals. As a result, most band members dropped out and left Mr. Helinski with the formidable task of starting the program from scratch with the help of just 20 students. However, this small 20-member concert band would quickly grow back into a 75-member concert band by the end of 1958. The first Quaker Valley High School Marching Band was very informal and wore the red and blue Sewickley High uniforms in the 1956-57 school year. For a couple of years afterward, the band simply wore a white-collared shirt or white sweater with black dress slacks. In 1960, Mr. Helinski (with guidance from Dr. Bedison and the art department) purchased one of QVMB’s legendary trademarks–the Quaker uniform. This would be the look of the Quaker Valley Marching Band for the next three and a half decades.
In the following years under Iacobucci’s leadership, the band would become quite prestigious. For the first time ever, Quaker Valley had students successfully compete to earn openings in PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) competitive festivals in 1969. One of the first two students to earn this distinction was a young French horn player named Richard Kriever. Today, the “Esprit de Corps” Award for Band and Orchestra at QV is given in Mr. Kriever’s memory. By 1970, the band was in high demand in the Pittsburgh area for festivals and parades. With over 125 members, the QVMB earned the distinction of being a featured performer at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.
During Mr. Iacobucci’s tenure, the marching band informally became known as the “Swingin’ Quakers,” known for their upbeat arrangements of well-known pop tunes (courtesy of Mr. Drake), unique field festivities (including the QV Fanfare, QV Riff, formation of “QV” on the field, Bye-Bye Blues, and a human domino chain as the band exited the field), their incorporation of dance moves into the traditional “Big 10,” high-step style of marching, their huge presence on the marching field (over 100 members strong from 1969-1980) and of course, those Quaker uniforms. After having to take leaves of absence due to health issues, Mr. Iacobucci made the difficult decision to retire at the end of the 1984-85 school year.
As many new directors would learn, filling the shoes of Walt Iacobucci was much easier said than done. Mr. Bruce Weissert (1983-84), Mr. Richard Mansfield (1983-84), Mr. Michael Panza (1985-88) and Mr. Alan Skwarla (1988-1989) all served as band directors at QVHS during what was a difficult time for the band program. Losing Iacobucci as a director was tough for the band students, and living up Iacobucci’s reputation was difficult for the new teachers. By 1989, the long-thriving band was down to less than 40 members and, while the student-run pep band remained, the jazz band had disappeared. The band’s next director would work to provide stability and a fresh new outlook.
Mr. Todd Fox took over as high school band director in 1989. Mr. Fox began to build the program back up in numbers and also began providing the band with new experiences—most notably traveling to and performing in major venues out of state. After taking the band to New York City in 1991, Mr. Fox began to develop a new vision for the band. The style of marching and music was gradually transitioned into what was popular in college drum corps style bands that utilize a roll step (instead of a high step) and place emphasis on military-like precision and smoothness of movement. The band’s next trip in 1993 to Orlando, FL would include a competitive element for the entire band, and by the 1994-95 school year, the band had retired the Quaker uniforms in favor of drum corps-style uniforms. In about five years, Mr. Fox had guided the Quaker Valley High School Marching Band into a new style, and the band had been given a whole new look and feel.
Mr. Fox would take the band to prestigious venues three more times during his tenure—twice more to Orlando, FL in 1995 and 1999, and once to Toronto, Canada in 1997. The band would also enjoy local recognition—the Pep Band was often invited to play for local college games in the late 1990’s, and on one noteworthy occasion, the QV brass students teamed up with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for a concert to benefit the restoration of the emblematic clock tower in downtown Sewickley.
At the end of the 2001-2002 school year, Mr. Fox moved to the Quaker Valley Middle School, where he served as the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade band director until retiring in 2018. His departure from the high school after over a decade of directing the high school program led to another quick succession of band directors, as was seen in the 1980’s. Mr. Sean Desguin’s five-year tenure (2002-2007) was well-received by the band students and in 2004, Mr. Desguin led the Marching Band to a first-place victory in the annual PIMBA (Pennsylvaia Interscholastic Marching Band Association) Class A Championships. After Desguin’s departure, Mr. Matthew Stultz (2007-2009) filled the position and took the band to Nashville, TN in 2008 and Orlando, FL in 2009. Mr. Chad Thompson was the band director in the 2009-2010 school year. Though only the director for one year, Mr. Thompson pinpointed something that needed to be addressed: that the Quaker Valley Marching Band has a dual legacy: the early days of the “Swingin’ Quakers” and the more recent legacy of competitive, drum corps-style band. Thompson began to work to incorporate elements of both into what he felt could be a new and more cohesive identity for the band program.