Story and Photos by Scott Serio
If there is a reason the Perryville High School Marching Band is sitting on seven straight State Titles, it might be that weeks before other athletes arrived to start their season, band members were already marching in the late-summer heat and putting together this year’s show.
“Our mission is to entertain the crowd and through that the kids learn teamwork, respect, responsibility and discipline,” said Band Director Jill Welsheimer. “Through the work of my small but mighty staff, we just try hard to find the best in kids. They don’t all survive but I know the ones that stick to it rise to the occasion.”
One of the student musicians who is thankful for his marching band experience is Senior Alto Saxophonist Nick Andrulewicz. “I used to be this little quiet kid and now I feel like I can be anyone I want to be,” said Andrulewicz. “This has made me more open about myself and feel better about who I am. I am doing so much better than I would have without the marching band.”
Now in his fifth year with the marching band, Andrulewicz is one of the drum majors and one of the leaders in Welsheimer’s band. No, he didn’t flunk out to be a fifth-year senior, he was talented enough in 8th grade to join the band. That little quirk means Andrulewicz is in line for a potential fifth straight state title, but he has known Welsheimer for much longer than his time in the marching band.
“She is an awesome director with nine state titles. She teaches us what she needs to teach us,” said Andrulewicz. “I have known her since I was like 5 years old and each year it just keeps getting better and better.”
As the state titles keep adding up, Welsheimer is more reflective on the legacy of good citizens and community she has spent time building. “After 22 years at Perryville, it makes me feel old. I taught the Jones’ boys dad my first year at Perryville and now Allan’s a senior,” said Welsheimer. “Nick (Andrulewicz) was six I think when his sister started. I would have never told you then he’d be drum major. It’s nice to see them grow up and they will always be my kids.”
Welsheimer has been teaching for 26 years. Even when she was playing french horn in fourth grade, Welsheimer knew she wanted to teach music. Now, she has a marching band that has won big-time championships, won seven straight state titles and finished second in 2014 at Nationals.
“It’s hasn’t always been like this. It’s taken years to build this program. I always have high expectations for the kids and I won’t take anything less. They don’t ever realize what they are truly capable of,” said Welsheimer. “Seeing them grow up and be successful at everything, not just band. I’m like mom by the time they leave me, and then some even after they go.”
Andrulewicz seems to have an innate understanding of the balance between marching band and his everyday life. “Winning always feels good. Getting first at States is really hard for us. So, we think if we can win states by working this hard, what else can we do?” said Andrulewicz. “Working in snow, rain and sometimes thunder, we learn that if you can be successful with this, you can achieve anything in life.”
Having played a musical instrument since fourth grade, Andrulewicz is intent on having music be a part of his life for as long as he can. “Marching band helps you get out of your little circle and be more outgoing and helps you confront others and talk and get you out of your shell,” said the All-County band and solo ensemble member. “It prepares you to meet a variety of people. I don’t plan on majoring in music in college, but if there is a marching band and a concert band, it is a priority to join.”
While the commitment to music is something Welsheimer loves from her students, it is building better individuals that she finds most rewarding. “I have great people who work with me. Kevin Forman, Caron Leath and Jenna Edmonston are great and there is great group of supportive parents who do what ever they can to help out our kids to be successful,” said Welsheimer, “We don’t just teach them music, but how to be great young adults. We are a family. I hope it’s always a fond memory the kids will keep for ever, win or lose.”
With this year’s show, Welsheimer is hoping to take the Perryville Marching Band to where no one has gone before, to an eighth straight state title, with their Star Trek-themed performance. There are still rough edges to the overall show, but Welsheimer is happy they already have a show on the field this early.
Perryville football and the marching band’s home opener is September 11th against Aberdeen.