When the Tucker County High School football team leaves the field for halftime, students and fans of Mountain Lion football now have a reason to postpone their snack run. After multiple directors - as many as four in one year, according to the senior member - a 2004 TCHS graduate has come back to her alma mater to resuscitate the marching Mountain Lions.
Heather Lantz, who studied music education at West Virginia Wesleyan College, returned to Tucker County to help the nearly non-existent band program. Her band of 33 percussionists, brass players, woodwinds, flags and majorettes takes pride in marching onto the field representing their school. After a week band camp, the band was ready to march in their first festival parade. The students went to the Buckwheat Festival to participate in the grand feature parade in Kingwood.
The members said the marching is part of what makes the band experience great. After the trip to Kingwood, Lantz, Drum Major Alix Lilly and the rest of the band took on the 73rd Mountain State Forest Festival. This was the farthest the band had marched in any parade. However, the day wasn't over when the Mountain Lions reached the courthouse - the end of the parade route. That same night, they competed in the Mountain State Forest Festival Spectacle of Bands Field Competition.
No matter where the students go, they have the most fun during the football games. Being able to represent their school on the field and entertain the fans in the stands is the favorite part of many of the members.
"That's our spotlight time," Alisha Myers, who plays clarinet, said during an evening practice.
Lantz said the diverse group of students is in nearly every other type of extracurricular activity the high school offers. From cross country to golf to scouts to theater, the band kids stay busy when they aren't on the march. The director said that even with the scheduling difficulties, all of the coaches and teachers have been very helpful in sharing the kids.
"Everyone has been wonderful," Lantz said.
Only participating in the non-marching bands at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Lantz wasn't as familiar with the marching aspects as she was in high school. During her first year as director of the Mountain Lions, there was no field show. Without any trumpet section, she recruited the help of her brother and former TCHS band member, Jeremy Hile. Hile would sit in the stands with the band at the football and basketball games providing an upper brass sound for the fledgling band.
"We had to start over," Lantz said.
Once the first year was over, Lantz set her sights on the marching. The band camp, held at Camp Horseshoe, was only a day camp. Volunteers headed out to St. George to bring the band in step and a friend of the directors helped map the field show. With only one senior, Lilly, Lantz said the band continues to do an excellent job of getting the job done.
"They do an awesome job of coming together," Lantz boasted.
"We're like a big family," Seth Roy, who plays trombone, said.
The Tucker County community has been a buzz since the band has returned and public officials are glowing about Lantz's work. County Commissioners Mike Rosenau and Tom Carr and Board of Education member Jerry DiBacco all made comments during their respective meetings about how they have loved seeing the band in local parades and during halftime.
Community members have even gone as far as writing personal checks to pay for the band members' uniforms. Lantz and the band boosters have been overwhelmed with the offers of support.
"We've had a huge response from Tucker County," Lantz stated.
She and the boosters are "in fundraising mode," and continue to look for ways to keep the band on the move. Band boosters' meetings are conducted monthly. For more information on when they meet, make a donation, volunteer to help Lantz and the marching Mountain Lions or to sign up for a booster newsletter, e-mail President Lisa Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or Secretary Terry Stone at email@example.com.