Band Takes The Stand

Leesburg VA: Tuscarora’s new band director, Ms. Durgin, as well as her students, have been working hard to re-establish the band program’s reach within the school.


The pandemic has subsided into a calmer wave but the effects on Tuscarora’s extracurricular activities, especially the band program, has become more pronounced than ever. With members coming and going, and their worries about their voices being heard powering their creativity, the band has been working diligently to rebuild their program.

Mckenzie Durgin, the new band director at Tuscarora, has been hard at work adjusting to a new school and band. “I had about 30 to 35 kids in the program[at her former school], and about 15 in marching band. Number wise right now I’m a similar size in program.” she said. She goes on to explain how she came to band and more specifically, teaching at Tuscarora. “I was injured in playing softball for a while. When I got hurt it opened up my eyes of career pathways needing to change. I had no intention of leaving my old job initially” she explains. “When Ms. Newmiller was like “hey I’m leaving, the job’s gonna open” I loved the community, the environment, the students, and I was like “I have to make this jump.””
COVID-19 had a heavy hitting effect, according to the students. When asked about how they felt about the aftermath of the pandemic, sophomore student and jazz band member Dexter Wilkinson, shared his experience: “I think we are definitely starting to grow back. Ms. Durgin, she’s doing a lot of promoting. Before that, we definitely struggled because everyone was scared off.”
Honing in on the marching band, they have been taking steps towards trying to promote the band back to bigger numbers by hosting events and playing at local stores. They just recently played for a spirit night event at Sweet Frog and have started up new opportunities for band members, such as stand band, where band members play in the stands of football games to cheer on the players, or their newly planned out pep band for the winter sports which has never been done at Tuscarora. These new additions to the program mean to serve as a way for former and current band members to continue performing for the school.
Similarly, the jazz band has been hard at work. Originally, they were an audition-only ensemble, but they have now opened their doors to any musician who wishes to be a part of the band. They have been building set lists to play for the community, such as performing when students walk into the school, playing at local elementary schools, or performing on the first Friday’s throughout spring. First Fridays serve as a showcase for musical artists to show off their abilities. Ms. Durgin and the students hope that taking advantage of that opportunity will help grow interest in the program.

“A big mission we are working on to help build community relationships is trying to build set lists to go out to the community and gigs,” Ms. Durgin explains. 

Furthermore, the wind ensemble has been working to help re-establish their reach within the community by connecting with the schools that feed into Tuscarora. 

“In April we are planning a cluster concert where the Wind Ensemble will perform alongside 5th grade choirs, Smarts Mill Middle School performing groups and Tuscarora High School performing groups,” said Ms. Durgin. 

In addition to these exciting new plans, Ms. Durgin has been working on recruiting by allowing student’s voices to be heard when it comes to deciding concert plans. The students are able to pick a piece of music that they enjoy as a class and play it, which further excites them to perform.

Marching band member and junior at Tuscarora, Chris Claudio-Segovia, explains his hopes for the future of the band program: “I really just hope that more people start to join band, and I guess start to feel like they don’t have to be afraid of people saying “oh you’re a band kid, you’re weird,” and they can just be themselves.” he said.