Marching bands at separate camps for final summer in Kittanning, Ford City

| Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 12:06 a.m.

The streets around Kittanning and Ford City high schools rocked to the rhythm of music this week as each school's marching bands held camp and practiced outdoor drills.

This is the last year for separate camps ­— and marching bands — as the two schools will be merged in 2015 with the opening of Armstrong Junior-Senior High School in Manor.

“It's going to be a very positive thing,” said Ford City Band Director Jason Venesky.

Venesky, who is chairman of the Armstrong School District Music Department, said that the students from the two schools have made music together during halftime shows at football games for the past five years and that band members on both sides aren't competing with one another.

“It's not like trying out for the quarterback position,” he said. “We're all starters — there's no one on the bench.”

Pat Cavanaugh, band director at Kittanning High School, has been teaching music for 33 years and won't be around to see the merged band because he will retire at the end of the school year. But he said he thinks that combining both schools next year will be a good thing.

“Here, we're restricted by our facility and have to practice in town,” Cavanaugh said.

But the new school, with a roomy campus overlooking the valley in Manor, will have plenty of indoor and outdoor space for marching band practice, he said.

Morning traffic streamed past Kittanning High School on Friday while trumpets, piccolos, clarinets, saxophones, French horns, trombones and drums blasted out a string of upbeat pop songs.

As the last strains of “We are Young” faded, drum major and senior Cassie Clouse talked about what marching band has meant for her.

“When we're together, we laugh and have fun. It's real easy to hang out with these people,” she said. “During games, people can expect a very fun show. Hopefully a song will get stuck in their head.”

Over in Ford City, the early morning chill gave a fall-like feel to practice as the marching band, color guards and majorettes fanned out through the parking lot to the oldies tunes of “Smoke on the Water” and “Purple Haze.”

Seventh-grader Steven Wright was among them and said during a break that he enjoyed being in band camp.

“I can express my feelings here,” he said.

His cheerful attitude and big smile matched the “Happy” song title attached to the top of his instrument. He plays a baritone horn, which can be a challenge for kids who have a slight build.

“I have zero muscles and it's a big instrument,” Wright said. “It's just as big as me, but it's really fun to play while marching.”

Jace Armentrout, a junior, is the drum major who conducts and makes sure band members like Wright are in the right spot. He will be attending the new school next year.

“I'm really going to miss Ford City,” Armentrout said. “I guess it will be a new experience. Maybe I'll like it.”

Both bands had a say in the final design for the new school's royal blue and orange band uniforms, Venesky said.

“They already have a stake in the game,” he said, “but for this year, our motto is going to be: The last, best year.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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