BANGOR — It was a small group of giddy band mothers who first tipped off the crowd that something exciting was afoot.
Cameras in hand they wrangled for position near the review stand, craning their necks for the first glimpse of the Bangor High School Band. Finally the band could be heard making the turn onto Main Street and the mothers’ excitement grew into almost amusing proportions.
As the drums and trumpets grew louder and the band came into view, the reason for the fuss became clear.
There in front of the reviewing stand stood the 66-member Bangor High School Band bedecked in — yes — new uniforms! Gray pants, topped with cardinal-and-white jackets. Flag team members sparkled in silver-sequined vests and the whole outfit was topped off with maroon berets.
It was a far stretch from the jeans and T-shirts that many of the band members wore during Bangor’s gala Labor Day event celebrating the 50th anniversary of World War II.
The band’s appearance in the heavily attended September event turned into an embarrassment for the school and consequently the city. Letters poured into the newspaper as the community questioned the band’s appearance.
“We were embarrassed by what happened Labor Day and we were determined not to let that happen again,” said Bangor School Superintendent James Doughty.
As the letters were aired on the pages of the newspaper, Doughty called a meeting with music director Doug Kennedy to see what could be done to improve the band’s image.
Uniforms was one place to start, and for the first time in 14 years, Bangor High School was able to find the funds to finance new band uniforms. The 80 new uniforms, plus matching flags and banner cost roughly $14,000, Doughty said.
With the Veterans Day parade looming just two months away Kennedy had to rush to find the right uniforms that could be delivered on time. He found one company that could fill the order and, though the uniforms arrived piecemeal, the last one made it by Nov. 2.
On the evening before Saturday’s parade, mothers across the city were hemming and adjusting to — well, to beat the band.
No one noticed if there was an uneven hemline or two in the group. The kids stood straight and tall as they played “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the reviewing stand at West Market Square and the excitement of those band mothers was catchy.
Kennedy was proud of his band on Saturday, even though he had to bungee cord a tuba together before the parade began.
The Bangor High School Band still has a ways to go, Kennedy acknowledges, but snappy uniforms is a good first step. For young musicians a good attitude can go a long way.