OTTUMWA — While the start of school may be three weeks away, the Ottumwa High School Cafeteria was buzzing over lunch Friday.

The Pride of Ottumwa Marching Band was in its final day of band camp, said Director Troy Gerleman. Rehearsals will resume Monday, but in much shorter time blocks.

The band, featuring 84 members between instrumentalists and flag corps, is gearing up for a season that includes five consecutive weekends of contests beginning Sept. 22 and ending with State Marching Band Contest Oct. 19.

The final weekend of competition will be a double header. After competing at the state competition, the band will head to Waukee for a special senior show. “The seniors get to march on the field and get introduced, and it ends with fireworks,” Gerleman said. “It’s just kind of a good way to end your season.”

But the pinnacle is state. “That’s what we really strive for,” he said.

The 2019 show has a theme of “World Machine” with music from New World Symphony, composed in Iowa by Anton Dvorak, German said, with visual effects influenced by Rube Goldberg’s ideas of simple mechanics. He said the runtime for the show is just over eight minutes.

Gerleman is not alone in putting the show together. While Gerleman used to write the drills himself, the last few years he has turned that over to Ted Reicher, who this year also arranged the music for the band.

“I just kind of started hiring it out to get some new ideas, and then found I had more time of my summer to spend with my growing kids,” Gerleman said.

John Bowler, who has had two kids go through the program, assists with the percussion section. Gerleman’s wife Jana helps with marching technique and drills on the field, and Pam DeBoer is in charge of the color guard, writing and teaching the routines.

Gerleman says the OHS marching band continues to find ways to stand out from the crowd, and this year is no different. “The drill aspect is very, very unique this year. There’s a lot more body movement,” he said, with ballet-type moves been incorporated into the field performance. “We work to explore different elements of space.”

Last year, platforms were used to add elevation to the performance. Over the years, the band has added synthesizers, keyboards, electronics and voiceovers to the show.

Gerleman said this is all part a new push in the marching band field to explore new things. “The activity is completely different than it was 25-30 years ago,” he said. “We like to be the leaders. The students take pride in being creative inspirers to the activity.

“It’s a big time commitment, but the outcome, the end product, they’re really proud of it.”

— Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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