Anyone who has lived in Bakersfield for more than 25 years can attest to the fact that the most important day of the week used to be Saturday, when thousands of the faithful gathered at Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium for evening worship services.
It was BC football, played to the accompaniment of the BC Renegade Marching Band.
Well, the football team continued, but for 20 years, the full marching band has been absent from the field.
The Renegade Band returns to the field this fall, putting the finishing touches on the revamping of the college’s entire music program. A new for-credit music class for the band has been added to the college’s fall schedule, which begins Saturday; the band will be directed by Tim Heasley, who until now has been serving as adjunct faculty in charge of the drum line and drum and bugle corps since 2008.
“The corps was established in 2014 with 93 students, grew to 115 in its second year, and just finished its third seas of Drum Corps International competition with 132 marching members,” Heasley wrote in an email. “Perhaps due to the presence of this ensemble, there was some community interest in marching band at BC again.”
The rapid growth in the drum and bugle corps would seem to support Heasley’s supposition, but that support has not always been apparent. The band remained intact into the 1990s when enrollment dwindled along with support.
“My first year at BC was 1994-5 and there was still an attempt at continuing a marching band that year,” wrote music department chairman John Gerhold.
The marching band was discontinued the next year.
“My understanding is that this was a result of low enrollment/interest and lack of sufficient funding,” Gerhold wrote.
Heasley credits the band’s resurrection to an improving economy and, due to the success of the drum line and drum and bugle corps, increasing community interest in having the marching band return.
But the essential element is money — bands are expensive, and college budgets are tight. Heasley said that fundraising and sponsorships to support the existing ensembles has demonstrated that people are willing to support a marching band.
“This drum and bugle corps program was kickstarted by a generous donation of brass instruments via the BC Foundation, and has been funded almost entirely through a variety of fundraising efforts ever since,” Heasley wrote.
“Like the drumline and the drum and bugle corps, I think the college hopes this program will be largely self-funded through fundraising and donations,” Gerhold added. “However, I have been told that a baseline budget for start-up costs has been established.”
To get the band started, the college has established a special studies course listed as SPST 201L: Special Projects and Studies Lab Courses, course number (CRN) 71554. The band will meet on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays from 12:20 to 3:30 p.m. The class has plenty of openings.
“We do have a few people enrolled, but because of the time, and the fact the course is listed as a Special Studies course, we will be relying on getting the word out this month to let students know it’s even an option,” Heasley wrote.
Heasley said the band and drumline are open to any students with marching band experience, including brass, woodwind and percussion instruments, plus color guard, but there will be auditions to determine assignments in each section.
Heasley is going to buy the new marching band some time, however. He stated that the already established drumline will start the season, and the full marching band will join when it’s ready.
Both Gerhold and Heasley point to the band to tell the thousands of Kern County middle school and high school band students that they can keep playing and marching after they graduate, and that those interested in having a career in music have a place to start.
“When the marching program ended in the 1990s, some people had the impression that the music program itself had disappeared, when in fact we had a thriving transfer program for music majors,” Gerhold wrote.
Gerhold noted the recent additions to the music program, including the associate degree for transfer in music, and now a commercial music certificate.
“However, having these programs doesn’t do students any good if they don’t know about them,” Gerhold wrote. “I see the marching band as a big (and loud) piece of our marketing as a department.”
“To quote Dr. Seuss, ‘We’re here. We’re here. We’re here!”