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New directors, veteran ready for marching season


September 18, 2013 | 08:34 AM

Harrison Countians who keep up with the marching bands can expect to see some changes this season, with the main one being the directors.

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Adam Miller, above, will lead the North Harrison Marching Cougars, and Jason Novak takes over the director position of the Corydon Central Vanguard. Photos by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor (click for larger version)

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(click for larger version)
Gone is Jim Jones, who in his three years as director at North Harrison took the Marching Cougars to the Indiana State School Music Association state finals the last two years. Also departed is Hallie Conrad, who spent one year as director of the Corydon Central Vanguard. (After two seasons, South Central's band will not compete this year.)

Succeeding Jones and Conrad, respectively, are Adam Miller, Jones' assistant, and Jason Novak, a newcomer to this area. That leaves as the lone veteran John Fischer, who is beginning his eighth year at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School.

"I never thought I would be the old grizzled veteran of the band director landscape locally," Fischer said recently.

Miller was born in 1981 in Frankfort, Ky. He graduated from Dublin Coffman High School near Columbus, Ohio, and earned a bachelor's degree, with a pre-certification in music education, at the University of Louisville. He has a master's in the art of teaching with an emphasis in music education.

"My decision to become a musician happened about the third or fourth week of beginning band in the sixth grade," said Miller, whose main instrument of choice is the trumpet. "Since that time, my goal was to become a musician. It was through high school and the influence of my high school band director, Dr. Jeff Keller, that I decided to become a music educator."

Before joining the staff last year at North Harrison, Miller spent four years at Eastern (Pekin), a year at Breckenridge County, Ky., and two years at Edinburgh.

Novak has a similar background: He was born in Chillicothe, the first state capital of Ohio. He earned his bachelor's degree at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and has done some graduate study at Wright State, Illinois State and Michigan State universities.

"My undergrad degree is in music education," he said. "I also have an educational technology graduate certificate."

Novak's primary instrument is the trombone. "However, I am pretty fluent at all of the brass instruments," he said. "Woodwinds are a bit more challenging for me, but I can play at the beginner level for all the instruments."

Novak's parents have told him he was interested in music before he could even talk.

"When I was very little, my uncle was a drum major in Chillicothe's high school band," Novak said. "I got very serious about music when I was in junior high school. I was lucky to have some amazing teachers throughout my studies. Their motivation and support really gave me the desire to pursue music as a career."

Before coming to Corydon this school year, Novak had two prior director positions. He started as an assistant at a small school near Columbus, Ohio, then, two years later, he became the head director at a small suburban school near Dayton, Ohio.

"I'm thrilled to be in Corydon," Novak said. "I enjoy the people here, the scenery and the close proximity to the city. I am excited to watch the band program grow in future years."

He said he hasn't had a lot of free time. But when he does, he enjoys visiting with friends and family, being outdoors, attending sporting events, hiking and reading.

"I also enjoy performing as a trombonist in professional and amateur ensembles," he said.

Miller, when asked what he likes to do when not working, quipped, "There is life outside of band?"

He does spend time with his wife, Allison, helping her with her preschool room at Noah's Ark Preschool.

"I enjoy disk golf, reading, board games, geocaching and learning anything new," he said.

Both new directors, as well as Fisher, have been busy preparing for the 2013 season, which will start Saturday. On the schedule for all three bands are the North Harrison Invitational, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. (gates will open 30 minutes earlier) , and the Pride of Paoli Invitational, beginning at 4:28 p.m. (gates to open at 3:30; admission $6).

The Vanguard, which advanced to state 10 times between 1990 and 2003, will be the least recognizable from past years, as the group has shrunk to 35 members and will not have a color guard this season. Novak, who has said this will be a "rebuilding" year, also has opted to skip the ISSMA marching class and, instead, will take the ISSMA scholastic route.

"We have a very young group this year, and I am hoping to bring some excitement and pride to the Vanguard that we can build upon in the future," he said.

Their show is titled "Mechanize." Novak said the theme is that every student is a piece of machine.

"Viewers will see robotic movements, special props and will hear many special sound effects," he said.

The Marching Cougars has 63 members this season for their show "Oriental Impressions."

"As always, we are hoping for the best possible year at our ISSMA competitions," Miller said. "However, more importantly, we are teaching our students about responsibility, hard work, commitment, leadership, dedication, setting expectations of excellence and quality of character. There are many groups that have a lot of talent that may make it to state finals and do well. However, they still may only be achieving 75 percent of their potential.

"The most important factor our staff looks for is: Are our students living and working up to their 100-percent potential? When a group of classy, hard-working students reach their potential, that is when memories are made for a lifetime."

The Marching Cougars has made 13 state final appearances since 1992 and won their class in 1999 and 2000.

Fisher has lofty goals for his Marching Wolfpack, who last year barely missed advancing to ISSMA state for the first time.

"Our hope this season, like every season, is to continue to improve and be better than the previous season," he said. "So far, we are on the right track, as the kids are a bit more focused and serious about the show. Competitively, after narrowly missing out last year, we want to push for a state finals spot in Class D.

"Of course, that will not define our season," Fisher continued. "When it is all said and done, we want audiences and the band community to recognize Crawford County as a classy, hard-working and entertaining band."

The Marching Wolfpack, with 62 members, is performing "Swan Lake."

"The show is as simple as it can be," Fisher said. "We are playing selections from Tchaikovksy's ballet 'Swan Lake'." The theme of the ballet, and the show, features a princess that falls in love with a prince, is turned into a swan by an evil temptress, who also gets the prince to falsely fall in love with her. But, in the end, their love for each other wins."

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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email