Building a Band Program Together is Dream for Couple

Sept. 5, 2017 ~ Long before the doors of Olathe's newest high school opened for students on Aug. 16, the band director and assistant director were working on plans for their fledgling band program. Since late last year when they were hired, Carol Lowman (director) and John Wickersham (assistant director) have talked daily about everything from band uniform styles to how many instruments to order for their growing program.

Sometimes those chats would be over dinner or in the car while running errands. Not unusual when you consider that Lowman and Wickersham are a married couple.

"We think this is a unique dynamic in the West band program," Lowman said. "When we were at different high schools, we would come home and collaborate every evening on how to make tomorrow's rehearsal better separately. Now we get to collaborate in real time, and work in the same band program!

"Band directors, especially at the high school level, spend a lot of time at school and away from home, so getting to work together is the best of both worlds for us."

Lowman is starting her eighth year in education (first in Olathe), and Wickersham is a 10-year veteran of the district.

"Starting a new school and a new band program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Lowman said. "We are very humbled to be chosen with the honor of opening Olathe West and starting the band program here."

For about nine months, the couple made plans and built the band program from scratch. Their creativity and experience as band instructors helped them design and order uniforms and their parade banner, create an inventory of band instruments, set up the band calendar for the school year, and meet with potential students and families.

During the first week of summer marching band camp, Wickersham worked with the percussionists while Lowman unpacked and assembled instruments, labeled instruments and lockers, and hung hundreds of band uniforms in their wardrobe closet.

"John and I have very complementary skill sets. He's a percussionist, and I am a low brass player," Lowman said. "He is good at arranging music and using music composition software, and I help put the finishing touches on those projects. He is excellent at teaching beginning band, and I prefer working with older students."

Another key collaboration where each of their strengths came through was arranging the fight song and alma mater for Olathe West.

Principal Jay Novacek picked "Dear Old Nebraska U" for the fight song and Wickersham began arranging the piece. Lowman stepped in to work on final editing of the arrangement.

The pair also worked together on the alma mater and considered an original melody, their university's alma mater, and even Lowman's high school alma mater.

"Eventually we decided it would be really special for Olathe West to have its own, original alma mater, no one else will have the same one!" Lowman said.

assistant band director and students

“The West band program is up and running!” Director Carol Lowman said. “We have a marching band, concert band, jazz band, and pep band – just like the other four high schools. We may be a bit smaller than the other programs this year, but we are going to grow! Go Owls!!!”

percussion line practices Summer band camp was the first event of West’s band program. The percussion line spent a week with Assistant Director John Wickersham before joining the rest of the band for their second week.
band director assembles drums Building a band program from scratch means unpacking and labeling a lot of instruments and other equipment. Lowman, who is new to the Olathe district, is excited about West’s first-year performances, especially marching in the Johnson County Old Settlers Parade on Sept. 9. “It’s a great Olathe band tradition!” she said.
assistant band director

Assistant Director John Wickersham worked with the drum line during a two-week summer camp in preparation for a busy year of performances. The band’s first public performances were the alma mater and fight song for an all-school assembly and building dedication shortly after the school year began, and then the pre-game routine for the Aug. 25 football game.

Photos by Marlene Colgan