The complaints were blunt.
A few former members of the Millwood High School marching band recently took to social media to air their concerns about the current band's performance during halftime at a local football game.
“Facebook was lit up like a Christmas tree,” said Rolanda Walker, of Edmond, a 1990 graduate who played the flute and served as a flag corps member while attending the school, 6724 Martin Luther King Ave.
Anthony Goodman, the school's marching band director, said he saw the Facebook comments and challenged the critics to come to the school and help.
So a group of between 20 and 30 band alumni did exactly that.
They have been practicing with the school's current band students and spent several hours on a recent Saturday marching, twirling flags and performing Millwood band standards like the school's fight song, “Let's Win!”
Some have searched through attics and closets, in boxes long forgotten, for their band instruments. They've adjusted their schedules as high school band directors, city leaders, preachers and working parents to return to the independent public school to help bring the tradition of the Millwood marching band back again.
Some former band members will perform with the band during a homecoming parade through a nearby neighborhood on Thursday, and during portions of the football homecoming game on Friday.
“The plan is for the alumni to play during homecoming, so dust off the instruments and stretch the muscles,” Jenni Breshers Woods, a 2000 graduate, told alumni who gathered for a recent meeting.
Jonathan Craig, 37, a 1994 graduate, said there was never any doubt that he would lend his support.
“I love Millwood. Falcon pride never dies,” Craig said. “When they told me the kids need our help, I wanted to help.”
The school's new superintendent, Cecelia J. Robinson, said she agreed with Goodman's challenge.
“One of things we have here is the slogan ‘We are Millwood,'” Robinson said.
“So alumni, when you're talking about Millwood, that's you too. If you want to see something different, then come help make it something different. Don't sit on the sidelines. It's our kids that we're talking about, so come help.”
Music and memories
For many decades, the Millwood marching band was known for its stylish flair and repertoire of a wide variety of music, ranging from classical music to the latest R&B and pop hits.
The drum majors and majorettes strutted with an air of confidence, high-stepping as they led the band along parade routes and onto football fields.
And the band members could dance, too.
Some fans of football teams in some rural Oklahoma towns anticipated the game against Millwood, just to see what the band would perform — and how it would groove — under the Friday night lights, said Lisa Greene, 47, an Edmond resident and a 1984 graduate and band alumna.
“I remember playing in the 89er Parade in Guthrie and hearing people on the sidelines say, ‘Here comes Millwood!'” Greene said.
“We would come around the corner where the judges were and we would break out with our latest songs and our newest dance steps.”
Oklahoma City Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis Jr., a former Millwood band tuba player, attended a recent practice, along with Torrey Purvey, a 1994 Millwood graduate and former drum major who is now the director of the Star Spencer High School marching band.
A 1991 graduate and former member of the drum line, the Rev. William Simms, 39, of Oklahoma City, showed up to practice in a cream-colored suit and had to return home and change into jeans and a T-shirt when fellow alumni teased him about not being serious about marching again.
“We remember what it was like when we were in school. We want to show our support for the school and the current students,” Purvey said.
Local support sought
Robinson, who is a 1990 graduate of John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, said she knows all about Millwood's Falcon traditions. She said her own two children attend Millwood and she'd like to see some of the customs brought back.
With only 280 students, however, the high school is lacking the community resources of say, a school of 1,200, which would be more likely boast a larger parental and community support base, she said.
Robinson said the number of band members had dwindled to less than 20 in recent years.
Band director Goodman said he only had one horn player and needed some alumni support in the horn section, among other things. Robinson said faculty turnover over the last several years hurt the school's arts programs. And that's been compounded by the fact that the school's state funding levels have forced school leaders to cut funding to arts programming like band.
“If we have to choose between textbooks and instruments, we have to choose textbooks,” Robinson said.
She said she thinks the former parent boosters and band alumni returning to help is “pretty amazing” and she'd like to see other things happen, such as an alumni mentoring program for the school's juniors and seniors.
Woods, a former drum major and player of the flute and piccolo, said she and other band alumni tried several years ago to start a band alumni group that could aid the school. She said this year's group is the largest turnout, so she is hopeful other alumni will return, as well.