KINGSFORD, Mich. (WJMN) – Lights, fire, action. It’s the Kingsford Marching Band!

“School spirit, I think it really shows through our work and effort that we put into our shows,” said senior Kingsford Marching Band member, Sylvee Ellis, who plays the alto saxophone. “We take pride in what we do, and our audience sees that.”

“I’m a fourth generation Kingsford Band member and they all had such good experiences and they wanted me to continue,” said junior, Christopher Burie, trombone. “It’s a little stressful at first but I really began to love it. I love playing my instrument and now that I’ve gotten into the Kingsford Marching Band, it’s like such a great experience. Like the band family atmosphere.”

As one of the largest marching bands in the Upper Peninsula, Kingsford sets the bar high for their program year after year. A tradition that’s been years in the making.

“The reason that our band is the way that it is, is through the legacy of our former director, Mr. Sherk,” said senior, Madelyn Edwards, clarinet. “And if we hadn’t had him for the many years that he worked here, like he started working here when my mom was a sophomore. None of this would be the way that it is. He built everything.”

“I had started in 1990, and I had taken over from another band director, John R. Calo who had the band for 35 years and I came in and started to institute some forward moving motion in the band and started building that program,” said Ben Sherk, former Kingsford band director.

Among many contributions, Sherk helped grow enrollment in the band, added the creativity of theatrics to the shows and began a leadership program to help build people of strong character in these young minds.

“I think leadership is one of the most important things,” said Sherk. “That and the family we call it. Everyone is important, every single person. No man left behind kind of a feeling.”

This band is full of leaders to help their fellow Flivver.

“The role of drum major, not only is it to lead the band and to direct and everything that you think is just stereotypical drum major stuff,” said senior, Ryan Gaucher, drum major. “I think it’s more of helping the ones that are in need. You usually focus on the ones that are doing good in the band. You give them gratitude, you say good job and stuff, but you really kind of overlook the ones that aren’t. The ones who fall behind and I think as a band, it’s really important to stay together because the band acts like a family and no one’s going to leave one of their family members behind.”

With that mindset felt throughout the group, it shows with what they put out on the field.

“In the community it’s a really big part,” said Gaucher. “When we practice at school, usually it’s around lunchtime and people will just leave work on their lunch hour and literally will just drive by and watch us. I mean we have a lot of respect in the community.”

Now the baton is handed off to two new directors, Jacob Barnby and Marc Rose, who are taking over for Mr. Sherk to continue on the legacy that was built.

“The Kingsford Marching Band is one of the best bands in the U.P.,” said Barnby. “It has such a large program and I think what sets it a part is its strong tradition of student leadership. Mr. Sherk has done a wonderful job of developing these really emotionally intelligent student leaders that are able to set a part, set aside their own personal wants or needs for the development of the group and what’s beneficial to others. That’s a great part of our program and our success. Musically, we’re always trying to push and get better and strive towards excellence.”

“I think these guys, they want to do a good job and carry on,” said Sherk. “We’re at a time, where you can’t find band directors. They’re not out there. Not up here in the up. Our two neighboring towns don’t have directors going forward. They can’t find them. To find two young guys that are excited about teaching and being with kids and want to continue some of the traditions. It’s going to be their program. They’re going to make it theirs, but they’re going to take some of the stuff that’s been built here and left here and move forward with that.”