Kyle D. Phillips
During the 2020 season, Princeton High School Band Director Kyle D. Phillips saw half of his students every other week, which made it extremely difficult to rehearse marching band and it also limited performance opportunities. Because of the pandemic, the already abbreviated season was made that much more challenging because the Pride of Princeton (PoP) marching band could not travel, and there were only three performances for the entire season.
“Knowing how hard they were working and how much they love performing together, my team and I developed the Senior Showcase,” Phillips explains. “It began — and continues to be — a marching band exclusive performance, where we perform our halftime show for an audience of our fans without having to share the field with the football team.”
Senior members are celebrated that night, and together, they selected an additional set of songs to perform from each of the previous halftime shows. The event is capped off with a fireworks display, provided by the Princeton Music Boosters.
In 2017, a new event in Cincinnati — the BLINK festival, a light, art and projection-mapping event and parade — provided a huge opportunity for PoP to perform in downtown Cincinnati. The first event drew in more than 100,000 spectators. “Since then, we have performed at every BLINK parade,” Phillips says. “In 2022, we were invited to participate in the parade’s Grand Finale, an honor reserved for only a few groups — and we were the only marching band. For my students to be recognized by an outside organization for their talents was a dream come true!”
In his eight years as the head director, Phillips has grown the band program by more than 40% — from 139 members in 2015 to over 200 in 2023. Some of his best recruitment and retention efforts include:
- Individual meetings with each 8th grade band member in the Spring to discuss their plans for high school band and to encourage them to at least try marching band.
- Middle school band night every year, where all 7th and 8th graders perform with the PoP on a Friday night
- Finding extra opportunities beyond football games to add to the allure of playing in the band, such as travel and special community/city events.
- Empower the band’s student leadership team to take ownership with regimented student-led instruction, goal setting and regular check-ins throughout the season.
“We celebrate our successes, but we also share in our struggles,” Phillips says. “If a rehearsal isn’t going well, I encourage the band to reflect on how we can improve. I often tell students that there’s no ‘bench’ in marching band and that when one of us struggles, it reflects on all of us.”