First Band Organized in 1929
While there had been community bands and church bands in Holt dating back decades, as well as a Holt High School Orchestra organized in 1926, it was not until early December of 1929 that the Holt High School band program was organized. The first formal superintendent of Holt Schools was Mr. Larned G. Goodrich (pictured at left), from 1923 through 1936. Mr. Goodrich was "instrumental" in organizing the band program for the school. The Frank Holton Company, manufacturers of musical instruments based in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, presented a plan to the administration of Holt Schools to launch a band program. The Holton Company’s plan, as laid out to the district, would take any student that had the slightest experience in playing an instrument as well as any student who had the desire to purchase an instrument from them, and agreed to supply an instructor for twelve weeks with no cost to Holt Schools. According to the 1930 Holt High School annual, The Lone Pine, Mr. Goodrich “thought it too good an opportunity to pass.”
Mr. Openlander & The First Uniforms
Mr. Hewlett & The Holt Fight Song
The Late-1940s: A Period of Change
Upon Mr. Hewlett's leave from Holt in 1947, it is estimated that Mr. Arland Doolittle (pictured at left) was hired as Holt's Director of Music. Shortly after Mr. Doolittle's arrival, a new set of full uniforms were purchased for the Holt Band. The uniforms were adorned with a gold patch on the shoulder that featured the word “Holt” amid the image of musical lyre. The new uniforms likely came due to the construction of Holt’s first official football field in 1948. The field was located at the corner of Aurelius Road and Sycamore Street and was known as "Memorial Field" for many years. Holt had various make-shift fields prior to 1948, but nothing compared to the bleachers and lights that were at the new site. Mr. Doolittle left Holt in 1949. In the fall of 1949, Holt's newly constructed elementary building, Midway School, opened. Music would still need to be taught at both buildings. That duty fell onto the school's Director of Music - a position that would be filled for the start of the 1949 school year by Mr. Don Tatroe. The 1947-1948 HHS Band with Mr. Doolittle is pictured below in their new uniforms in the high school gymnasium (PC: 1948 Holt High School Yearbook).
Mr. Tatroe & His Busy Band
In 1949, Mr. Donald Tatroe was hired as Holt's Director of Music. It was noted that Mr. Tatroe was handed the baton to a well-developed band from Mr. Doolittle. In his first year, the band took up all new activities, among them was participation in the Charlotte Marching Band Festival, the District Band and Orchestra Festival, and the Holland Tulip Festival Parade. The band took first place in the Tulip Festival Parade in 1950. The 1951 Holt High School annual, the first Rampages, read, “The Varsity Band’s 1950-51 agenda proved the fullest in its history.” Mr. Tatroe continued the band's busy schedule every year that he was in charge. In 1950, the band began diligent rehearsals earlier than usual in order to prepare for their performance at the Michigan State Fair. The band played in parades, concerts, assemblies, and even for Governor G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams. Among Mr. Tatroe's legacies in Holt is the implementation of themed halftime shows with their intricate formations and recognizable tunes. Mr. Tatroe also began the tradition of the year-end picnic at Round Lake. Mr. Tatroe took up other duties in Holt in 1951. He worked teaching other classes, as well as serving as athletic director and assistant principal. Tatroe ultimately left Holt in 1952 for a new position as principal of Haslett High School. With Mr. Tatroe's exit from Holt, a new long and storied era in Holt would begin!
The Winters Era
Following high commendation from Mr. Tatroe, Mr. Gerald Winters (pictured at right) was hired in Holt in 1952. Mr. Winters was a fresh graduate of Michigan State College, where his primary instrument was trombone and he had marched in the MSC Spartan Marching Band. Winters had studied with the legendary MSC Director of Bands Leonard Falcone.
Though Winters was given a very talented band, he immediately improved the quality of the band. In his first year, Winters' band received a Division I rating at the District Band and Orchestra Festival (the 1952 plaque still hangs in the HHS Band room today). Upon Winters' arrival, the district expanded yet again with the construction of Elliott and Sycamore Elementary Schools - Winters taught music in all of the district's buildings for decades.
Winters continued the tradition of maintaining a busy schedule for the band. The 1955 Holt Band marched in the Michigan State University Centennial Parade, as well as the auto show in Lansing. Winters' bands played at the normal football games, concerts, and assemblies. Individual students performed at well over fifty engagements around Holt over the course of the school year. The 1956 Rampages yearbook noted that “Holt High School and surrounding community can be justly proud of the band and all of their accomplishments. One of the biggest reasons for giving the band well deserved praise is that the band plays nothing but ‘Class A’ music.”
Michigan State University Band Day
Michigan State University began its annual Band Day tradition in 1954. With Winters' connection to Michigan State, the Holt Band naturally attended. It is remembered as a treat for the Holt Band to perform on the banks of the Red Cedar River. The band traditionally rehearsed on Old College Field near the bend in the river. Most all that attended have vivid recollections of the sound of the bands in the open air and the tunes bouncing off the historic campus buildings like the nearby Jenison Fieldhouse. All remember the chance to perform in Spartan Stadium and being conducted by Leonard Falcone and in later years by Kenneth Bloomquist. The Holt Band attended Band Day every year for decades. The event annually brought in thousands of students from across the state. Band Day finally came to an end in 2001. MSU Band Day is pictured in its heyday below.
Holt Pep Band & Jazz Band
Mr. Winters had established a Pep Band by the 1956-1957 school year. The pep band played at pep rallies, basketball games, and various other engagements over the years. The Holt Pep Band lasted until 1991 when it disbanded under the new direction of Mr. Timothy Parry. Mr. Parry ended the traditional Pep Band and launched a Jazz Band. The Jazz Band still performed at pep assemblies and basketball games. The band frequently had guest performers, like Holt High School teacher Mr. Peter Kressler. Mr. Parry also played with the band in addition to leading the group. The ensemble made special appearances at events like Girls Swim Meets. On one occasion, Mr. Parry played a trumpet solo of the Star Spangled Banner at a Girls Swim Meet. The Holt Jazz Band still exists today, though it serves a different purpose, and does not perform at athletic events. A 1980s Pep Band is pictured at left.
New and Improved Uniforms
The 1950s & '60s
The 1958-1959 school year brought some change to the Holt High School Band. The new high school building opened for the fall of 1958 at the corner of Aurelius Road and Sycamore Street. This move meant that the band was no longer confined to the space of the old frame outbuildings behind the main school building. The band would have its own space inside the new Holt High School. Performances were now held in the school gymnasium. The band played at all of Holt’s home football games under the new lights at the improved football complex.
The Holt Band saw an interesting dilemma in 1963. Because the band uniforms were wool, they had become severely worn and new uniforms were needed, however that was not feasible. The solution to the issue was to purchase some replacement uniforms. One of the uniforms that was replaced was the drum major uniform, among others.
One aspect that was fairly new was the Solo and
Ensemble option for band students. Seventeen students participated in the
program. In addition, three Holt High School Band students participated in the
Lansing Conservatory of Music’s Third Annual All-Stars Concert held at St.
Johns High School. High profile collegiate band directors Leonard Falcone
(Michigan State) and Al J. Wright (Purdue) were guest conductors at the
For the 1966-1967 school year, the band had a special opportunity. U.S. Interstate 127 was having its grand opening and the ceremony needed musical entertainment. The band was asked to participate and Winters took the opportunity to show off the skilled band that he had developed. The interstate grand opening ceremony was held on Friday, October 14, 1966 near the Holt interchange. The ceremony opened seven new miles of the freeway which connected Mason to the Interstate 96 freeway. Just minutes after the band and ceremony were standing atop the new interstate highway, traffic began speeding by.
Annual Kiwanis Formal Band Concert
A tradition that started under Mr. Winters’ direction was the annual Formal Spring Band Concert. Mr. Evans Brown, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Holt, approached Mr. Winters and the Band Boosters in an attempt to establish an annual fundraiser. The Kiwanis Club of Holt would do all of the planning for the formal concert, in which there was admission charged. All that Winters was responsible for was preparing the band for their performance at the concert. The Formal Spring Band Concert was held annually for years and years.
A "Class A" Institution
The Block-H Uniforms
A Period of Changes: The 1970s & '80s
It was the fall of 1976 that the new Holt Junior High School opened on West Holt Road (current HHS North Campus). This transition meant that Holt’s ninth graders were removed from the high school and moved to the Junior High School. This move took a toll on the band, it meant that the marching band no longer featured the freshmen class, and was smaller after the switch.
The Holt Band department introduced a new ensemble, the Dixieland Band, a six piece band which mostly played blues music in 1977-1978.
The marching band saw a period of change in the 1979-1980 school year. The 1979-1980 band under Mr. Winters’ direction was again gleaming with passion and talent! This band was the largest the group Holt had seen up to that point with 105 members. The band was so large, they had to wear four slightly different uniforms. The drumline learned and executed a new drum cadence to which the band moved in parades. Mr. Winters said, “We had a few problems switching from one cadence to the other, but we worked it out and it sounded pretty decent. I feel the cadence benefited the band.” The marching band officially introduced the Flash Flags into the halftime show performances in 1979 (an early Flash Flag squad is pictured below). The flag routines were practiced during school, after school, plus on the Wednesday night rehearsals. The Holt High School Band’s majorettes for the 1979-1980 season attended a summer camp at Northwood Institute, at which they learned several new ideas and moves for their performance.
The End of an Era
The McMurtrey Years
Mr. McMurtrey (pictured at left) is vividly remembered by his students and fellow teachers for his tremendous personality, a great sense of humor, and above all else as an impeccable musician! A new pride, style, and enthusiasm were instilled in the students with Mr. McMurtrey. The strong tradition in Holt's band was maintained under McMurtrey's direction. One immediate change was that the flag squad was improved and new brown and gold sweaters were purchased to progress their performance appearance. McMurtrey brought fresh ideas to the table and always maintained the standard of excellence in Holt. In the 1986 Rampages yearbook, Mr. McMurtrey stated, “The Marching Band showed great enthusiasm, imagination and pride. Our drum majors, majorettes, flags, and each individual band member worked for perfection in their performance. Of course, perfection is unattainable, but the process of working toward that goal is something to be admired.”
McMurtrey's bands excelled in every performance they gave! In 1987, the Holt Band performed at the Michigan State Capitol in Downtown Lansing in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the State of Michigan. The same ensemble performed at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on the campus of Michigan State University.
The Golden Uniforms
The Parry Era
In 1991, Mr. Michael McMurtrey returned to his position as director of Holt Junior High School's band. Upon McMurtrey's exit from the Holt High School scene, a new director of high school bands was hired - Mr. Timothy Parry. Mr. Parry, a 1969 Holt High School graduate and professional trumpeter, returned to Holt from Portland High School where he had directed the bands since 1975. Parry's bands are recalled as some of Holt's greatest ensembles. The band travelled to Orlando, Florida during Spring Break of 1992. The Holt High School Band played at Walt Disney World and had free time at Magic Kingdom as well as Cocoa Beach. The 1993-1994 Holt Band consisted of 147 members, Holt's largest ever and the second largest in the State of Michigan just behind Traverse City. Phrases that are often still heard today that were coined by Mr. Parry are: "The Best Band in the Land" and "A Band That Plays Together Stays Together."
The Annual Light Show
One tradition that Mr. Parry began upon his arrival to Holt in 1991 was the annual light show halftime performance. The stadium lights shut off and the band was lit up with glow sticks while marching in their intricate formations on the field. The performance has grown over the years to include battery operated lights among other things. At the conclusion of the performance, Holt's Junior High School band joins the marching band for a 7th through 12th grade ensemble. The light show is still performed annually by the Holt Band!
The Grand Ledge Marching Band Exhibition
Mr. Parry annually took his Holt Band to the Grand Ledge Marching Band Exhibition. The exhibition began in 1987, however it is unknown whether McMurtrey's bands attended the exhibition. The exhibition, annually hosted by the Grand Ledge High School Marching Band, consists of 20+ marching bands from the Greater Lansing Area with a performance at the end of the night by the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band. The Holt Band still attends the annual exhibition annually.
The Brown & White Uniforms
Holt Band Visits D.C. & Orlando
Annual Holiday Appearances
In 1993, the Holt Band went door-to-door Christmas Caroling in the Holt and Lansing area to spread Christmas cheer. Among the many stops on the caroling route was the Lansing Q106 radio station. The group was able to play on the air with their stop at the station.
In 1995, Delhi Charter Township began its annual tree lighting ceremony. A volunteer group of Holt Band students performs yearly at the celebration - the group is known as the Santa Band. It is also tradition for the Santa Band to go caroling after the tree lighting ceremony - traditional stops include Delhi Cafe, Target, Sam's Club, and WILX News 10.
The Holt Band regularly marches in the Lansing Silver Bells in the City Parade. Silver Bells began in 1984 and the Holt Band has participated annually since the 1990s, at least. Each year a local high school band is named the best lit. For many years the Holt Band was the best lit band every year that it was eligible. The Holt Band marches with Santa hats, glow sticks and battery operated lights. Additionally, instead of the normal "Holt Rams Band" banner at the head of the band, there is a special light-up banner.
After 14 years as director of the Holt Band, Mr. Timothy Parry retired at the end of 2004-2005 school year. His replacement, Mr. Michael Emerson, began in the fall of 2005.
Miss Alberta Phillips, 1929-1933
Mr. Stuart Openlander, 1936-1937
Mr. Rex Hewlett, ca. 1937-1947
Mr. Arland Doolittle, 1947-1949
Mr. Don Tatroe, 1949-1952
Mr. Gerald Winters, 1952-1985
Mr. Michael McMurtrey, 1985-1991
Mr. Timothy Parry, 1991-2005
Mr. Michael Emerson, 2005-
By Mr. Rex Hewlett & Robert P. Baisel, ca. 1938
Fight, Fight, Fight For Dear Old Holt
Fight For Victory
Fight, Fight, Fight For Brown & Gold
Come On & Keep Those Banners Flying
Ramblers Don't Yield
See That Line Weakening
Smash Onward Down The Field
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah
Come On & Fight, Fight, Fight For
Dear Old Holt,
Fight For Victory.
Fight, Fight, Fight For Brown & Gold
Come On & Keep Those Banners Flying,
Ramblers Don't Yield.
See That Line Weakening,
Smash Onward Down The Field.
Lyrics By Harry Dygart, ca. 1941