By: Ruthie Saylor
Mr. Alexander Swakhamer is Tussey Mountain’s new Band Director after Mrs. Bonnie Jenkins’ retirement at the end of the 2022 school year. He started this year at the beginning of the term and has been advising bands like Sr. High Concert Band, Jr. High Concert Band, 6th Grade Band, etc.
Swackhamer started teaching as a day to day substitute at Indiana, Apollo Ride, Marian Center, and Penns Manor School District. This taught him how to deal with kids before he started teaching music. During this time he also worked for a brewery, an ice cream parlor, and as a chauffeur. He worked 7 jobs at one time, and around this time he had to move to Delaware with his wife (then fiancé) because that is where she was going to school. While in Delaware, he was hired as a long term substitute for a Traveling Strings Teacher for Red Clay Consolidated School District. There were 16 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, and 6 high schools. There were 8 teachers in the traveling strings group and they would visit the schools and teach students how to play the strings. This taught him to figure out scheduling and other important things. He started doing general music, but he wasn’t in the position long before Covid-19 hit. He then moved back to Pennsylvania and worked at Bishop Carroll in Ebensburg.
The biggest shock Swackhamer faced after starting here is how, “genuinely …. everybody seems to care here…I have no issues with [the] indoor band [students] because they want to be here.”
There are a few struggles for Swackhamer that he has had this year. One of which is participation.“We are the smallest the band has been…That’s not a good way to go. Easily anyone could come in and make [the band] mediocre,” says Swackhamer. His goal is “to make [students] interested in the product they create.” There were 7 people in the 7th and 8th grade band, so he had to find a way to get people to join. After covering for classes in his room he managed to get students interested by playing music for them. Now the number of people in 7th and 8th grade band has doubled and there are 22 students in 6th grade band. There are even around forty 5th graders interested in starting lessons. He even added three people to the Tussey Mountain Marching Band since the start of the year. Swackhamer says, “That’s what’s going to rebuild the marching band, the inside bands, and all that.”
As the director, for the marching band he had to decide on the music and he eventually landed on an Avengers theme. He wanted a theme that played into the disney theme that we have seen in previous years, but he also wanted to do something that was popular in the media. The band already had the Captain America March, so it made sense to have that song in the show. It also made sense to have The Avengers Theme in an Avengers show, so that just leaves Loki’s Theme. “Loki had a theme going out there that we could play with,” says Swackhamer. Loki’s Theme was added to the show last and was also played last in the show.
In the end, while small in numbers the band has grown as a group. “They’re starting to become more of a family … They really rely on each other,” says Swackhamer.
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