Written by Adam Liebendorfer
Perched on a rickety platform on an elementary school playground, DaeVon Jackson surveyed his band.
The 17-year-old drum major bantered with a gaggle of flutists between run-throughs and reminded everyone about the looming Band Day competition at the Indiana State Fair today.
Jackson said he’s proud of the band and his position as one of its two student leaders. However, Jackson has another honor: He is in the first class of seniors in the Shortridge Magnet High School Marching Band.
Since Shortridge became a high school again in 2009, students such as Jackson have led the music department’s renaissance. Shortridge now boasts the only marching band from Indianapolis Public Schools in the state fair competition.
Shortridge has been preparing its 1930s-themed Gangsta Jazz show since the last week of June. The 60-member band consists mostly of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders.
“It’s kind of hard because we’re small and everyone else is big,” said tuba player Austin Crawley. “It makes us seventh-graders have to work harder. Some of us have only been playing for a year.”
Ask most members of the band what it’s like to be part of the band as it rebuilds, and the word “family” will come up before long.
“We all go through this together, and these are the main people I hang out with,” said junior Sherrod Miller. “You’re willing to go a lot farther and help people out.”
Shortridge shut its doors as a high school in 1981, ending almost 120 years of generating such notable alumni as Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, author Kurt Vonnegut and “I Love Lucy” writer Madelyn Pugh.
After operating exclusively as a middle school for almost 30 years, Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy opened for the 2009-10 school year, offering classes in Grades 6-9.
“We were really pretty much a middle school-plus when we first opened,” said Lora Elliot, vice principal at Shortridge. “Everybody believes that once you come back to school each fall it’s a rebirth, but for us it’s a completely different bird.”
With every new grade, Elliot said, come about 100 new students, and with more students come more teachers and services. Shortridge staffed a full high school guidance office two years ago and will field a football team for the first time in decades this fall.
Band director Kathy Spangler said the band receives no money from IPS and generates cash through a combination of community dinners, private donations and work at the concession stand at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In addition to a marching band, Shortridge has an orchestra, wind ensembles, a jazz band and a competitive drum line. Since its inception, the marching band has grown to 60 members from 42.
Some parents whose children come from as far as Carmel have been drawn in by Shortridge’s diversity and smorgasbord of extracurricular music activities.
But to Spangler, a marching band offers even more.
“I have students from all over the city. So I have some students that are living in shelters, some students that don’t know where they’re going to get dinner tonight or if they’re going to have dinner tonight,” she said.
“It’s definitely a lot more than learning notes and rhythms. The kids are learning discipline. They’re learning responsibility. They’re growing up. They’re learning how to deal with disappointment. I would say that’s probably a majority of what we do.”