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story.lead_photo.caption Russellville High School marching band students pose at the end of the season. (Submitted photo)

Improvements for the Cole R-1 band are marching in under band director Nathan Gargus. He instructs the middle and high school bands and teaches music theory.

Recently, the number of students interested in the activity has increased and the growth has pushed everyone forward.

"It's a lot of work, but it's worth it," Gargus said. "We've almost doubled in size in four years."

Around 90 students make up the entire marching band.

This season, the band received a record number of marching awards, including several caption awards for best music performance and best percussion.

"This year was our best year yet," Gargus said. "It's stuff like that that really opens your eyes and leads into the next year really well."

He said band brings everyone together from all walks of life.

"It's interesting, because it brings (together) these people who probably wouldn't even hang out, if it wasn't for band," Gargus said.

Beyond marching band, the program also has concert band, pep band, a jazz pop rock ensemble and a percussion ensemble.

Since Gargus took over as band director four years ago, the program has seen many changes. He said this is an exciting time and hopes the budget they need continues to flow.

"Everything is going our way and it's great for the kids," Gargus said.

Next year, they will have new uniforms, which were donated anonymously.

For the band members, Gargus makes sure they focus on character and maintaining a good mindset, regardless if they place in competitions. He said he wants these traits to be part of who they are.

Band members work the concession stand at sporting games to develop work ethic and team work, outside of the bandroom.

The plan is for them to become more competitive in the upcoming years. There's also a chance for a new area of growth.

"Next year, we can start getting into field shows and our focus will shift away from parade music," Gargus said.

With the coming of high school football in 2020, the band can explore a variety of music to take to the field.

So far, the school has supported the program by purchasing $25,000 worth of equipment and large instruments. Replacing some items that were almost 50 years old.

The band boosters also support the members and cover field trip costs and meals, when they're on the road.

"We probably raise between $8-10,oo0 a year," club president Dawn Fredrickson said.

"The booster club is significantly more active, since Mr. Gargus came on board; and it has a lot to do with how energetic he is," she added.

The annual craft fair Nov. 3 raised close to $1,000 from booth rentals. Funds will be used for instruments and sheet music and, possibly, a field trip.

Gargus said he loves working with all the students.

"Really, the kids put in the effort and without them I'd be here waving my arms around."

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