NHS Band thriving 80 years later

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Niles High School Marching Band made its very first appearance at a football game between Niles and Benton Harbor on Oct. 6, 1923.
Eighty years later, Niles High School band alumni are recognizing those who played in the first band by marching onto the high school's football field during half-time at Friday's football game between Niles and Marshall.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m.
Donna Ochenryder of Niles, who recently published "The Niles High School Sports Pictorial and Memories" book, graduated from the high school in the early 50s.
She is one of several band alumni behind the half-time event.
Ochenryder, however, said the half-time march is also a good opportunity to honor all subsequent band members, both living and deceased.
While several people have signed up to take part in the march, Ochenryder is hoping more people will sign up before Friday.
Ochenryder said people who were in band, either at the junior or senior high school level here, are welcome to participate.
People who were at one point students here, but who graduated from another school, are also welcome, she said.
She said band alumni, whose event "uniform" is a navy blue jacket with jeans or dark trousers, will be sitting at the north end of the high school stadium.
During half-time, the band alumni will march onto the field together, she said.
Ochenryder hopes each alumni will be able to carry a sign during the march that shows what year they graduated and what band they played in.
But recognizing the first high school marching band isn't the only item on the agenda.
Ochenryder said the committee organizing Friday's half-time march is, in addition to seeking interest for a 2004 Niles High band reunion, also hoping to eventually form a high school alumni band.
The proceeds from her own book sale is dedicated to the establishment of such a band.
Having enjoyed being in band while a senior at high school, Ochenryder hopes the band will soon become a reality.
For those interested to sign up for the alumni band, there will be an alumni sign-in table just inside the gate on game night until 7 p.m.
The march is sponsored by the Niles High School Band, The Niles High School Band Boosters and Niles High School Band alumni.
According to school history, the early 1920s was great for Niles High with the basketball team winning its first of two consecutive state championships in 1922, and the track team winning the state championship in 1923
Leland Walker was a school figured head at the time, coaching football, trak and basketball at the same time in 1923.
Walker, Ochenryder said, was in addition to being a great coach, also a great educator.