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The 1960 St. Pius X Band with Director Anthony Belcastro (top right)
St. Pius X has had a band program in one form or another since 1960. Sister Mary Barbara Brickley, R.S.M., originally oversaw the entire music program which included the eleven member 'Band Club.' She also wrote the school's fight song and co-wrote the Alma Mater song w/ Peter Fischer Hesed. In 1960, Mr. Anthony Belcastro became the school's first band director. In 1964, a student-teacher program was implemented for experienced student musicians to help teach beginners. That year the band played music at basketball games and three home football games and continued this for the next few years.
In 1966, plans were made to start a marching band. The school's second band director, Mr. Donald Wells, was hired in 1967. Mr. Wells was a member of the Atlanta Symphony. Under his direction, the band was nicknamed the "Lions Band" and became a full-credit subject. At this time, there were about seventeen members in band.
By fall of 1968, the band had twenty members, and performed music for the Drill Team's halftime routine at home football games. During the year, a band parent association was formed to help raise funds for the band. The first band Christmas concert was presented in December 1968. Spring 1969 was a busy time for the Pius band program. In March, the band's drummers marched with the Drill Team in the Atlanta St. Patrick's Day parade, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed a Jazz concert at the school, and the Notre Dame University band stopped by and performed for the school in April!
The 1969-1970 St. Pius Band with Director George Disney (top left)
In the fall of 1969, new director George Disney (no relation to Walt) was hired. The seventeen-member band continued to perform music for the Drill Team's halftime routine, and new uniforms were purchased. In December of 1971, the band performed a Christmas concert at Perimeter mall. During the 1970's, the St. Pius X Band participated in several parades. In 1973, the band marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Savannah.
The 1974-75 St. Pius Marching Band & Drill Team
In the fall of 1974, director Albert Nemeth replaced Mr. Disney. During Mr. Nemeth's tenure, the band marched regularly at home football games and played at some basketball games. In 1975, the school schedule was changed, allowing the band to meet every day. By 1978 the band had grown to thirty members. The marching band seemed to be on the rise, and things looked promising going into 1979 when tragedy struck. In the summer of 1979, band members Robert Lind and sister Margarie Lind were killed in a car accident. They were on their way to take Margarie to work at McDonalds. They were struck by a police car at a high rate of speed. The St Pius X band and community were at a terrible loss. That Fall, Mr. Nemeth took the marching band to an annual marching contest. Mr. Nemeth left St. Pius abruptly in the fall of 1979. Skip Johnson took over as interim band director for the rest of 1979.
The 1978-79 St. Pius Band The 1979-80 St. Pius Marching Band
John McDonald came to Pius as Band Director mid-school year in January 1980. It is believed that by this time there was no longer a marching band (page is being updated as more people are interviewed). Mr McDonald was given the most difficult task of holding a small and dwindling program together. There was an added pressure of teaching chorus, which consisted mostly of students who had not even chosen to be in the group, but needed an elective. Mr. McDonald pressed on, working with the band students and kept the band program alive. He kept this going until his departure at the end of the 1981 school year.
New director Ms. Val Berry arrived in the fall of 1981. Ms. Berry put all her focus and determination on the concert band program and recruiting new members. Ms. Berry's focus and hard work paid off. By 1983, band membership had regrown to fifty six members with two bands, beginning and advanced. Ms. Berry also organized a small orchestra program during the 1985-86 school year. The band and orchestra rehearsed in a trailer before the new band room was completed in 1986.
In the fall of 1986, Barbara Exline was hired as new director. Ms. Exline encouraged students in the parochial schools to take up instruments and participate in the high school band. Ms. Exline demanded nothing less from the band students than one hundred percent concentration and hard work on their instruments. During this time, the orchestra program had six members. In the spring of 1987, the concert band performed at the annual GMEA band festival and earned what may be the school's first-ever 'Superior' band rating at festival. Ms. Exline was awarded as St. Pius X "Teacher of the Year" in 1987. By 1989, the band had about fifty members. The orchestra program continued until about 1990.
In the fall of 1989, Mr. Bryant Poole became the new band director. Under Mr. Poole's leadership, the band performed more often and to a wider audience. During Mr. Poole's ten years as director, the band ranged from thirty-one to forty-five members. Mr. Poole firmly established the Pep Band which played in the stands at home football games. The band also continued to participate in the St. Pius Fall Arts Festivals and Spring Music Festivals and embarked on annual tours of the parochial schools. Mr. Poole was the first director to consistently take the band to perform at music festivals outside the state of Georgia. For example, Mr. Poole took the band to perform and compete in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1990, 1993, and 1998. He also took the band to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1995 and 1997. The band was very successful at each of these events (see the award web page for all band contest results).
1999 - Present
Richard Marcus came to St. Pius X in 1999. One of Mr. Marcus' main objectives was to strengthen the band program in the parochial schools. Besides teaching at St. Pius X, Mr. Marcus taught middle school students at Our Lady of the Assumption, St. Thomas More, and St. John Neumann. Each year he assembled a special group of middle school band students from several feeder schools and called it the Catholic Youth Band. This gave the feeder school students more experience in band, establishing a connection between the students and St. Pius.
Mr. Marcus took the St. Pius Concert Band to festivals in Orlando, Florida and New York City. The band was very successful at these contests and won several awards. Under Mr. Marcus, the concert band also received several superior ratings at the GMEA District IV Large Group Band Festivals. In 2004, through careful planning and patience, Mr. Marcus made plans to revive the marching band which had been dormant since 1979. Marcus made arrangements for St. Pius X to purchase new uniforms for the band.
Chad Paetznick, current Director of Bands, arrived at St. Pius X in 2005. He took Mr. Marcus's initial gesture of reviving the marching band and gave it a final push to fruition. Marching band became an elective course at St. Pius, and after-school marching rehearsals were added. The new Marching Golden Lion Band of 30 members performed for the first time on August 19, 2005. The band went on to win two marching band competitions that year in the class "A" division. In 2006, the marching band elective course was divided into two seperate classes, one class brass and woodwinds, the other for percussion. This was so Paetznick could successfully concentrate on improving these segments of the band one at a time during class. In 2007, the marching band won it's division at all 3 contests attended, including an overall 'Grand Champion' award at the GISA Marching Band Invitational. The Marching Golden Lions are now known as a strong competitor in the state of Georgia. As of 2013, the band has attended 24 competitions winning 1st place 14 times, 2nd place 6 times, and placing 3rd or lower only 4 times.The band goes on a performance trip every other school year, having performed at Walt Disney World in March 2007, October 2008, October 2010, October 2012, and October 2014. Membership has been on the rise steadily. In 2014, marching band membership improved to a total of 66 members.
Mr. Paetznick also continues the tradition of the Concert Band program, performing a variety of challenging yet entertaining music at the Christmas and Spring band concerts.
For the 2015-2016 school year, due to the demands of teaching band students at three schools (STM, IHM, SPX) a new band faculty member was hired to assist Mr Paetznick. Mr Ian Labreck (pictured below) was hired as Asst. Band Director at the end of the school year 2014-15. Mr Labreck is a graduate if the University of Georgia music program, and is an outstanding trumpeter as well. His duties are to assist Mr Paetznick with the St Pius band, as well as help teach the STM and IHM band programs. Mr Labreck has been very well received by the school communities, and contributes his talents to the schools greatly.
In 2016, the band broke new ground and traveled out of the US on a performance tour of Ireland April 2-9 2016 during spring break. The band performed concerts in Galway, Limerick, Cork, and Dublin. The concerts were very well received and the band students met and talked with many student musicians from Ireland. The band also toured many religious sites such as Balintubber Abbey, Holy Cross Abbey, attended Mass at Galway Cathedral, and were able to see the Book of Kells. (Band at Blarney Castle pictured below)
The effort to strengthen the parochial middle school band programs also continues. Mr Labreck teaches band two days a week at St Thomas More School and Immaculate Heart of Mary School. Many middle school band students are involved in the annual St. Pius Youth Band, which is a continuation of what Mr. Marcus established with the Catholic Youth Band. Mr. Paetznick has also revived the basketball pep band, which now plays at select varsity home basketball games each year.
Anthony Belcastro (1960-1967)
Donald Wells (1967-1969)
George Disney (1969-1974)
Albert Nemeth (1974-1979)
John McDonald (1980-1981)
Val Berry (1981-1986)
Barbara Exline (1986-1989)
Bryant Poole (1989-1999)
Richard Marcus (1999-2005)
Chad Paetznick (2005-Present)