89 Years of Musical Excellence.
(in the Tamaqua School District)
(all the below information was taken from THS yearbooks and Alumni)
The history of the band at TAHS begins back in the 1920's. In 1928, the instrumental music department at THS consisted only of an orchestra. The orchestra had 23 members and would play at all school functions, such as graduation. In the following year, a Jazz Orchestra, which only played at the 1929 commencement, was introduced . The next several years saw ups and downs with numbers and the changing of Music Supervisors. In 1932, a new era would begin with the introduction of a new ensemble: the beginnings of the Girls' Bugle, Drum, and Fife Corps. Also in 1932, the TASD took the over the supervision of the a community group called the Tamaqua Boys' Band, which had been started in 1927 by the Tamaqua Rotary Club.
The following year, the TASD hired the first full-time director of bands, Martin Kemmerer, to oversee The Boys' Band. As the Boys' Band continued to grow, they became known as "the Boys in the Blue and White." The Boys in the Blue and White accompanied the football team to the games and participated in many of the area's parades. As the 30's continued, instrumental music flourished in the TASD. The Girls' Drum and Bugle Corps had gained as many as 109 girls by 1937, at the same time, becoming "one of the most famous girls' organizations in Pennsylvania." The Girls' Drum and Bugle Corps received many accolades. The ensemble got to parade for Governor Earle and participated in the National American Legion Convention Parade in New York City. A few years later, 1939 proved to be a landmark year for forming new organizations. That year, a complement to the band was formed: the cheerleading squad. They accompanied the band to all of the football games. In that same year, the Boys' Band needed new uniforms. The Band gained funds by selling pencils and programs at the football and basketball games, along with selling refreshments at the games. To help out with the task, an outside organization stepped in. This was the emergence of the Band Boosters Association. These were parents and friends of the boys in the band. That year, they raised enough funds to purchase their new uniforms. Also, the Bugle Corps created a group called the Bugle Quartet. This group performed at Military Funerals and other special occasions.
During the early 1940's both groups were placed on travel restrictions due to W.W.II. All activities took place in the nearby area. In 1945, the Bugle Corps added a Bell Lyre Quintet to the ensemble, expanding its musical growth. Members of the Boys' Band created the band council. The council made rules governing and enforcing attendance and behavior. 1946 was the first year that either organization was permitted to leave Tamaqua for an engagement. This was also the first year that band members from the Senior High played for the football pep meeting in the Gym, thus creating the first THS pep band. By 1948, the Bugle Corps had received a new director, the principal, Mr.R.B. Stapleton. At this point, the group had 138 girls participating. This was also a landmark year for the Boys' Band which added its first female Drum Major. In February, Mr. Kemmerer resigned as Music Supervisor. In 1949, a new Supervisor was hired, Mr. Paul Horner, who would oversee the Boys' Band. 1949 also saw the first annual band concert. The following year, the 85 member band received new uniforms.
The 1950's would see another change in band directors. Due to the illness of Mr. Horner, Mr. A. Scott Collins would take over the band. Mr. Collins was a graduate of the Valley Forge Military Academy. He would later go on to host the PMEA District band festival in 1961.
The 1960's saw two new band directors and one new bugle corp director. In 1964, George Rhubright became band director and Dolores McKenna took over the 33-year-old Bugle Corps. In the following year, the TASD hired a new Band Director, Mr. Robert J. Hunt, from Clearfield, Pa. Mr. Hunt would go on to teach for the TASD for 36 years until his and his wife's retirement in the Spring of 2000.
The 1970's would see director and appearance changes by it's end. In the Fall of 1977, Robert Fetterman would become the director of the "Raider Band." This was a unique time because about 60% of the band roster had had Mr. Fetterman as their instrumental instructor since fourth grade. Two years later, the "Raider Band" took on a new look with the purchase of new uniforms.
1980 saw the expansion of the band when Mr. Fetterman incorporated the use of Bells, Chimes, and Xylophones in the "Raider Band." Along with performing for the Football games, the marching band traveled to N.Y.C. for the St. Patrick's Day Parade, performed on the Capital steps in Washington D.C. and started to perform in concert band adjudications. Alumni remember fondly raising the difficulty of music and attaining excellent & superior ratings. A two year favorite was "Russian Christmas Music." During Mr. Fettermen's tenure he also instituted an 'Alumni band' during the homecoming festivities. The "Raider Band" also performed at the dedication of the new Tamaqua Elementary School in 1981.
The 1981-1982 school year would be a transition year for the band. Mr. Fetterman would begin the year and make way for a new director; in March of 1982, Mr. David R. Schmaldienst took over the 111 member band beginning a new era for marching and concert band excellence. As one of his first acts as band director, Mr. S(so called by his students) created the flag squad. One year later, the "Raider Band" underwent a long distance trip to Busch Gardens in Virginia. In 1985, the "Raider Band" was accepted to perform at The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. As the 1980's grew to a close, the band grew larger, almost exceeding 100 musicians.
In March of 1990, the "Raider Band" would take delivery of new uniforms that had been modeled after the once-great Girls' Drum and Bugle Corps. The following year, the "Raider Band" would perform at the halftime festivities for the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Florida. In 1993, after ten years as director, Mr. Schmaldienst left Tamaqua to become director at a neighboring Schuylkill County school. In the Fall of 1993, William E. Dries III was hired as the director of the "Raider Band." Mr. Dries later resigned in 1996, making way for our current director, John F. Potlunas, who was hired in July of 1996. Under his direction, the band has performed in Florida in 1996 and in 2001. It has also done numerous recordings of the standard band literature. The band was guest conducted by Anthony Maiello, and it hosted the Schuylkill County Band in the new Auditorium. Today the "Raider Marching Band" has 190 male and female participants.
The "Raider Band" is already off and running. The band paraded for the Schuylkill County Fireman's convention in Mahanoy City. Their efforts granted them first prize in the marching band category. On Wednesday, August 28, the band had the privilege and the pleasure to perform for Governor Mark Schweiker on his visit to Tamaqua. This year we were invited to the first annual West Chester University Adjudication. The students' efforts earned them an Excellent rating on September 14. September 28, the band headed to the Boyertown Cavalcade of Bands. The band performed an awesome show and received a rating of SUPERIOR. As October rolled on, the band went to it's last adjudication of the season. The two hour trip to William Tennent High School in Warminster, Pa proved to be another Superior night. By this point, concert band has already begun. On December 12 the students performed for a standing room only crowd in the TASD Auditorium. In January, Tamaqua High School was represented in District 10 band by Richard Chwastiak. Richard performed in the percussion section. Later on that spring, over 20 students participated in Schuylkill County Band at Blue Mt. High School. On March 27, the band students gave their annual spring concert. The concert was highly attended, very few seats were left in the auditorium. One week later, The "Raider Band" and Band Boosters hosted the first annual Land of the Running Water Jazz Band festival. Five high school bands were in attendance.
The 2004 season is off and running. The Raider Band traveled to Pottsville in August to participate in the Schuylkill County Fireman's Parade. After a long parade, the Raider Band came home with the first place trophy for best high school band in the parade. On September 25, we traveled to The 45th annual Boyertown Cavalcade of Bands. At the end of the night, the band received an Outstanding rating and the Best Drum Major award. October has proved to be a busy month. The students participated in the L.O.T.R.W. band festival hosted at Tamaqua High School and the Schuylkill Haven T.O.B. show.