Lawrence High School marching band prepares for special 100-year anniversary show

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When Lawrence High School band director Mike Jones described the process behind designing the Marching Lions’ 100-year anniversary show, he shied away from taking too much of the credit. 

Instead, the 22nd-year director made one thing clear about the Centennial Celebration: It goes beyond any one person.

“You might get the impression that I’m the one who’s writing this, but this actually comes from different composers,” he said. “… It kind of encapsulates that it’s almost beyond any individual performer.”

Senior drum major Milo Bitters gave Jones more credit than he gave himself. Jones has written LHS-themed music for concert band, pep band and marching band.

“Jones has truly inserted himself into — if not created — the sound of Lawrence High,” Bitters said. “He has a flair that he combines with the decades-old alma mater and fight song to create this unmistakable sound evident in the music he writes about LHS.”

With every step the performers take and every note they play, they are building upon a century of tradition and history.

“It is a very amazing thing to know that you are the result of 100 years of tradition,” senior drum major Abe Roman said. 

Cuyler Dunn/Lawrence Times Lawrence High senior drum major Abe Roman conducts the LHS marching band during a rehearsal on Sept. 14, 2022.

The celebration show features a wide array of music that aims to highlight the culture of the LHS band. 

“I️ think that the band’s goal with this show is to show how integral the LHS Band is, and has been, to the school,” Bitters said. “It calls into mind the effect the band has had on a century’s worth of students, and how vital music and community is to a group of kids and adults working together.”

Jones recalled when the band celebrated 80 years, near the beginning of his tenure at LHS, and began to look toward the 100-year mark and the celebration that would ensue. What he couldn’t have predicted then was the effect that COVID-19 would have on the band, just a few years before the big anniversary.

The result is a much smaller and less experienced band, which Jones said has made for some challenges. The marching band has dropped from more than 140 students in 2019 to fewer than 100.

But even with the smaller group, Jones said the students have bought into creating a show that celebrates the history of the band.

“Under the circumstances,” he said, “I think this is a perfect way to mark the occasion.”

The show also creates the opportunity to encourage others to help the band grow back to its former numbers.

“Band numbers are way down in a lot of high schools,” Roman said, “and we hope that by sharing this special show, we can encourage more young people to join or rejoin the band.” 

Bitters thinks the band is accomplishing that goal.

“I️ truly believe that this year we are completing the process of resetting that standard of true greatness,” he said.

Cuyler Dunn/Lawrence Times Lawrence High senior drum major Milo Bitters conducts the LHS marching band during a rehearsal on Sept. 14, 2022.

When they perform, band members will be donning T-shirts — designed by Bitters — underneath their uniforms that encapsulate the 100 years of history. 

The shirts feature the LHS mascot, Chesty the Lion, wearing marching uniforms from all 100 years of LHS band, including the new uniforms being worn for the first time this season. They are on sale to the public for $20. 

“It’s a big honor to be just a tiny part of such a legacy,” Bitters said. “It’s awesome to see that the legacy of the LHS Band is widely recognized too. It is something that has benefitted the lives of so many Lawrence youth over the years; the scale of its impact is simply crazy.”

The band will perform the Centennial Celebration show at home football games against Free State on Friday, Oct. 14, and against Shawnee Mission West on Friday, Oct. 21. The games kick off at 7 p.m. at LHS. 

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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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