Marching to the beat of success

Published 9:56 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

It was a night of new starts and fond farewells on stage of the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center Tuesday, as Dowagiac Union Schools hosted its annual Band Awards.

Students with the middle school and high school bands were recognized during the ceremony that evening, which was attended by more than 100 family and friends packed inside the auditorium. Several students were recognized for their outstanding achievement throughout the 2015/2016 school year, while others were recognized for their participation in special band activities such the recent Solo & Ensemble competition or playing in pit orchestra during the district’s spring musical.

“The reason we’re here tonight is because band students run the school,” said Band Director Justin Makarewicz. “They do sports. They do extracurricular activities. They’re among the top of their class academically. Music provides them with a creative outlet that helps them in these other areas. We’re really proud of them for all the things they do, not just band.”

Tuesday’s ceremony marked the first event hosted by Makerewicz since the director took the reigns of the Chieftain band program. The director took over the leadership of the middle and high school bands following the departure of previous director C.J. Brooks last spring.

Opening the ceremony Tuesday was Dowagiac Middle School Principal Matt Severin, who recounted to the audience the search process for Brooks’ replacement conducted by he and Union High School Principal Kelly Millin. Severin recalled feeling hesitant at the time to even interview Makerewicz, who at the time had just graduated from Western Michigan University, saying he wasn’t sure that a “rookie” would be up for the challenge of leading Dowagiac’s proud and established band program.

“After meeting with Mr. Makerewicz, after he interviewed with us and especially after having the opportunity to see him teach our students and interact with our band, we knew we had a keeper,” Severin said. “We had a really great year this year. We had a changing of the guard and our band program is still strong and proud. We’re really looking forward to many years to come that Mr. Makerewicz will bring to our program.”

The event was also an emotional one for the seniors on stage, as it would be among the final times they would be together as a group before their graduation in June. In addition to recalling their fond memories of their years bonding together in band, the students also gave out some gifts to Makerewicz and his assistant director, Mike Petersen, who is retiring at the end of the year.

Before concluding the award ceremony, Makerewicz announced that sophomore Jessica Robison and freshman Jonathan Stockwell had been selected to serve as drum majors to help lead the band next school year.

Other awards given out Tuesday were:


Sixth Grade Outstanding Achievement: Jada Shields, Mateo Vazquez


Seventh Grade Outstanding Achievement: Lauren Ahonen, Kathryn Shellhorn


Eighth Grade Outstanding Achievement: Lynsie Stolpe


Freshmen Outstanding Achievement (Snake Award): Shane Strom


Director’s Award: Heather Hammond


Chieftain Spirit Award: Harold Schaus


Patrick S. Gilmore Award: Ellen Cox


John Phillip Sousa Award: Kaitlyn Murphy