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Student letters: Supporters help make Chestatee band grow strong
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Today's letters are provided by students in Ernest Davis' social studies class at Chestatee High School. More student letters from the class will appear on Monday's Opinion page. Letters may be send by e-mail to (no attached files, please, which can contain viruses) or or click HERE for a form

When Daniel Merck came to Chestatee the year it opened, there were only 48 people in the band, including color guard. In the nine years since, the band continues to grow and currently is 140 strong.

Next year, the band is expected to become an open class band, meaning we will have more than 101 students marching, not including percussion or color guard. A band cannot grow so exponentially without the work and dedication of its students, director and help from the community. Many organizations have contributed throughout the years but none has had more of a lasting effect than these individuals.

Jeff Nylander, whose wife works at Chestatee, has been helping since the school opened. He has had three children go through the band that have graduated. Though his kids have long since gone to better things, you will still find him at every practice, game and performance.

Another person who has helped so much is Keith Fairhurst, who owns a local printing company. He had a daughter go through the program and graduate and yet continues to help. Like Jeff, he is there for everything from practices to competitions. Anything the band needs when it comes to copying music, programs for the competition we host or whatever else, Keith is always there willing to do it for us, free of charge.

Marching band, for those who don't know, starts at band camp in mid-July and continues until late October or later. It requires a lot of dedication on everybody's part to make it great and it takes up all of a band director's time.

During those four months, Mr. Merck relies of the support of his loved ones such as his wife, Stacie, and his two children. Without his family, we wouldn't have an always cheerful band director.

There is one person I have yet to mention that has left more of a lasting effect on the band than anyone. Gene Shadburn who has had no kids go through the band himself was always there to help since the school's inception until his untimely passing in 2008. If the band needed anything, he was willing to do whatever he could.

In 2007 when the band was increasing in size, he purchased a trailer to help haul around instruments for the band. Not only did he buy the trailer, he also paid for it to be painted and shelves to be installed. Without his love or support of the Chestatee Band, we wouldn't anywhere near where we are today.

On Friday nights, anyone can come and see the band perform but not fully understand how much work goes into making what you see great. Every year without fail, band parents are willing to help, and for that, we are grateful. Every year the band helps the community by performing for Veterans Day or the Memorial Day Parade. American Legion Post 7 has always been there supporting the band and giving us high praise.

The band would be nowhere if it wasn't for the love and dedication we receive from the students in band, Mr. Merck, our community, and the individuals who do the little things that have made a big difference.

Derek Burress
Chestatee High School

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