Updated Wed, Aug 28, 2013 5:01 pm
After losing two long-time leaders of the high school marching band and then the resignation of a new hire less than a month after coming on board, Trimble High School now has another new marching band director.
Dennis Ullman was formally hired during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“I technically started Monday, and our first performance is tonight,” Ullman said Wednesday afternoon. “We had two days to meet each other and get going.”
The band performed the fight song during the Old Settlers Reunion Parade Wednesday evening. Their next performance is slated for Saturday, during the school’s first home football game against Nelsonville-York.
“I told him to take baby steps,” said Matthew Curtis, principal of Trimble High School, during the school board meeting. “Learn the fight song and ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ I told him he didn’t have to march, just play from the stands. Maybe by mid-year he’ll have a program together, and we’ll be good to go.”
Curtis said there’s even talk of starting a flag corps in the future.
Ullman was invited to apply to the supplemental position after the former director, Eric Skinner, resigned less than a month after being hired. The position of band director is considered a supplemental contract and pays $3,544.94.
Skinner, a recent college graduate and alumnus of the district, had said he was hired too late in the season, which was one of the reasons he left.
The district struggled to find someone to step in after the previous director and assistant director stepped down.
Ullman first heard about the plight of the district’s marching band from a friend who read about it in The Messenger, he said. By the time he reached out to Curtis, the district already had plans to hire Skinner.
“When Eric resigned, Dennis was still interested, thank goodness,” Curtis said.
Ullman, 51, comes to the district with nearly 30 years of experience as a music educator. Ullman graduated from Fort Frye, where he played in the band. He later studied music education at Kent State University. For the past 25 years, he’s been judging tournament bands through the National Judges Association.
Most recently, he served as the marching band director of Fort Frye High School from 2007 to 2011.
“When Dennis first came to Fort Frye, our numbers were on the decline,” said Susan Rauch, principal of Fort Frye High School, via email. “He had a lot of enthusiasm for music and that encouraged the students to join marching band. Dennis wrote the shows for the marching band competitions.
Our students performed very well in contests.”
Fort Frye had just seven marching band members when Ullman came on board, less than Trimble, which now has about 18. By the end of the year,
Ullman grew Fort Frye’s band to 19 students and lead them to win 29 first-place awards from marching band competitions. When he left the district for health reasons, the band had 32 members.
Ullman said he limited his activities the past year to recover from an illness. During that time he said he missed it and was happy to be involved again.
Because the band is very young and inexperienced, Ullman said he’ll be starting them with the very basics. For Saturday’s game, Ullman has arranged with Janice Paris, Nelsonville-York’s marching band director, to play “The Star Spangled Banner” together.
Ullman said Shelly Rose, the school's former assistant marching band director, has been helpful with recruiting new members. She has also agreed to fill in for Ullman during his absences.
“The kids have a great attitude; they’re excited,” Ullman said. “There was some fear in a lot of them that the program wouldn’t go. We lost a couple kids because of that, because of the uncertainty. I’m hoping we can bring those kids back in. But we had two new kids join today, so that’s encouraging. The future is very bright for that group.”