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Riverside, Deer Park high schools banding together

Music groups combine forces for big events

Deer Park has a long and decorated history of being involved in parades. In the town hall, you can view many trophies from various parades, dating back to a silver-plated cup from the 1926 Spokane Interstate Fair.

This year, as in years past, Deer Park will be entering a float in the 72nd annual Armed Forces Torchlight Parade. The float this year is decorated in a disco theme with a yellow San Francisco trolley car. However, before you look at the float, take a moment to enjoy the band marching in front.

With a lot of help from their neighbors, the Deer Park High School band is ready to march strong again at the parade. This year, the Deer Park and Riverside high school bands will be integrated and marching side by side. The Deer Park and Riverside marching band is a combined 100 strong, with about 25 Deer Park and 75 Riverside students, marching in their two different uniforms.

Because of years of dwindling band numbers, Deer Park decided to combine forces with Riverside. “Deer Park wants to revitalize the high school band,” said Riverside band teacher Brian Comstock, who is teaching the Deer Park band as well this year. Comstock teaches three morning periods at Riverside and two afternoon periods at Deer Park.

The idea came from a brainstorm between the two school districts’ superintendents, Mick Miller of Deer Park and Roberta Kramer of Riverside, according to Comstock. “When two districts can put resources together for the benefit of the kids, that says something about the districts,” said Dan Huffman, Deer Park High School vocal music director, who works with Comstock.

While the bands are separate entities, they have combined for several special events and concerts in the past year. One notable event was the the state basketball tournament in Yakima. Band members from both districts ended up rooting for Deer Park as the tournament progressed.

“I think the Riverside kids realized that the longer Deer Park won, the longer they stayed,” laughed Huffman. “Musicians are a step above at being able to root for another team.”

“I’ve tried to give these kids the best band experience possible,” Comstock said. He has tried to include Deer Park students in events originally scheduled for Riverside, such as a recent trip to San Francisco for the Heritage Festival. Eight Deer Park students participated with Riverside in the event, in which the band won several awards, including overall sweepstakes award.

The goal has been to provide “lots of playing opportunities to get the kids out there, see the world and expand their horizons,” said Huffman of the joint trips.

While who is going to be teaching the Deer Park band next year is still unclear, one certainty is a bigger band facility. Currently, the music department resides in a small portable building while the high school is under construction. A new band room and a large auditorium are scheduled to be completed before the start of the 2010-’11 school year.

The new wing is to be named the Kenneth M. Fisher Performing Arts Center after the beloved band instructor who retired in 1993 and recently died. Fisher taught at Deer Park for more than 30 years and is most known for taking the Deer Park marching band to the Rose Bowl Parade in 1970. “Back then, the band was about 130 kids,” said Huffman.

While it may be a long way back to the glory days of the Deer Park High School band, both Huffman and Comstock are excited about what the future has in store. “This experience has sparked a lot of excitement which hasn’t been there in the past,” Comstock said. “There is a kid who went to all-state band, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.”