By Brandi Watters
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The swan song of the Marching Highlanders evoked an emotional response from both those in the audience and on stage Sunday.
In a three-hour performance of the school’s final Plaid and White Revue, the Highland gym was packed with alumni and the parents of Highland’s final band members.
The Anderson Community School Corp. has decided to convert Highland High School into a middle school, sending all high school students to Anderson High School.
The school’s trademark plaid kilts and whining bagpipes opened the show, which saw the return of former Highland band members and directors.
Former band directors Don Burris, Bruce Smith, Hugh Callison, John Parshall and Mark Finger took turns leading the band through various performances.
Trumpeter and former student David Coolidge took the stage for a trumpet solo during the band’s rendition of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Getting through the weekend’s three performances without breaking down in tears was a challenge for Highland bagpipers Courtney Paulshock and Taylor Walker.
It was the first Plaid and White Revue for the sophomores, who said they felt like they’d been in the band for much longer than two short years.
“It seems like we’ve been doing this for so long,” Walker said.
“It’s been so emotional,” Paulshock said after the opening performance of the revue.
Walker worried aloud that Highland’s rich heritage would be lost at Anderson High School.
Paulshock agreed. “It’ll be just like Madison Heights.”
The finality of the performance was overwhelming for the girls.
“It’s the end,” Walker said.
“It sucks,” Paulshock added.
Signaling the end of the school, the winter color guard spun and danced with flag poles to Sarah Brightman’s classic “Time to Say Goodbye.”
Parent Karen Jones isn’t happy to see the tradition of Highland band, the reigning Indiana State Fair champion, come to a close.
“My son is very involved in band. Music is his life. This band program has directed him and guided him,” she said, weeping.
“It’s a tight family,” she said.
Her son, Layke Jones, is confident that the plaid kilts, bagpipes and rich tradition of Highland will find a place at Anderson High School.
Too many people care about the program to let it fall aside, he explained.
Parent Shari Daugherty isn’t as comfortable with the switch to Anderson High.
“We’re going to another school,” she said, expressing that her family made the decision to put her children in the Pendleton school system rather than make the transition to Anderson High School.
She has hope that Highland won’t be closed if the newly elected school board members and parents fight the move.
As the dramatic Highland revue came to a close, “Amazing Grace” was played by the high school band and accompanied by bagpipes, prompting tears and sniffles from audience members.
“Simply amazing,” Daugherty said of the finale.
Bob Owens and his sister, Betty Beachler, never attended the school, but wept openly during the final performance, overwhelmed by the emotion in the room.
“It was a bittersweet end,” Jones said.
Contact Brandi Watters, 640-4847, email@example.com