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MULZER CAMP - When Tell City High School band students perform, "you're making music and you're making magic," their director, Barry Reasoner, told them at an annual banquet May 7 at Mulzer Camp. It was the last such gathering for Reasoner, whose decision to retire after 25 years was reported here April 15. The yearly event provides an opportunity to recognize students who, according to the band members themselves, excelled at the craft of making music and magic. Chief among them this year was Jennifer Niswonger, who earned the two top awards given at the culmination of each band season. One is named after a former TCHS music director and the other for a man whose name is synonymous with marching music. The Paul Silke Bandsman of the Year Award is named after a man who Reasoner called "one of the outstanding band directors of Tell City" and goes to the "overall bandsman of the year," he explained. All of the award recipients were selected through student balloting, and each name called elicited loud cheers indicative of the performers' all-for-one attitude. The John Philip Sousa Band Award is, "as far as I'm concerned, the height of awards for high-school musicians," Reasoner said before announcing Niswonger's name again, eliciting for her a second wild ovation from her peers and the parents in attendance. The Sousa award recognizes "outstanding achievement and interest in instrumental music, for singular merit in loyalty and cooperation and for displaying these high qualities of conduct that school instrumental music requires, Reasoner explained. Nick Hawkins earned the Jerome Stenftenagel Award, given for service to others, and was the outstanding senior and outstanding percussionist for the current academic year. Assistant director this year and set to take over as director next year, Natasha Edmondson stood with Reasoner in announcing the troupe's top musicians. Savannah Hoskinson was selected the outstanding freshman and Jalen Harris the most-improved freshman. Chelsea Boyer is this year's outstanding sophomore and Jennifer Dinkel the most-improved sophomore. Laurie Saalman is the outstanding junior, and is joined by Mary Burst, the most-improved junior. Lauren Coyle is the most-improved senior, Gwen Holman the outstanding guard member, Kenzie Alvey the most-improved guard member and Will Roberts, the most-improved percussionist. Band boosters' farewell She didn't want "to outshine Mr. Reasoner by any means," band booster Jane Coyle said after he finished speaking at the awards ceremony, "but there are a couple of other people in this band who have given a lot over the years, and we don't want to leave them out." "We want to thank you all for all you've done over the years," she told Steve and Patty Hawkins, whose 15th year of band support is coming to a close. "Nobody knows how much you have done," Coyle continued, her voice becoming choked by emotion, "and we just want to thank you." Her farewell included the reading of a poem, "The Muffin Mom," describing a treat Patty Hawkins baked each week of the band's marching seasons. The roles of band parents are many, varied and behind the scenes, except when they appear on marching fields to help get instruments and props in their proper places. Patty Hawkins' place up to that moment was often between school buses, where she'd help ensure each student was properly fed, dressed and ready to perform. Steve Hawkins also played multiple parts, including driver and hauler of equipment trailers. His biggest and most behind-the-scenes role, perhaps, was in a building known as the "band barn," where he was instrumental in turning designers' concepts into working, transportable props. The students actually witnessed only a fraction of the couple's efforts, but always benefited from them. "Yay Hawkins!" a student yelled from the audience, sparking more boisterous applause and cheers. It was unlikely to be her final act of dedication to the Marching Marksmen, but the outgoing band mom and decade-and-a-half booster responded by mentioning that seven boxes of fundraiser candy bars remained to be sold.
"It never stops for us," she said. "We've got to make budget."