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Pa. woman writes to band

Sends letters out giving East Fairmont Busy Bees
and Honey Bees rave review


The Dominion Post

FAIRMONT --Vistors to East Fairmont High School Thursday morning probably heard the Busy Bee Band and Honey Bees long before spotting them.

Spirits were running high --despite the damp, cold morning air -- as band director Earl McConnell Jr. urged the students to give it their all.

"Horns up! Alright, let's go. Come on, we can make it look better," he said into a bullhorn, watching intently as they began to rehearse a field show for one of the last football games of the season.

The words were barely out of his mouth before music spread across the parking lot below East Fairmont High.

That's the kind of dedication that caught the eyes -- and ears --of a Pennsylvania woman when the band performed last month at the Upper St. Clair Band Festival.

Tammy Seelnacht was so impressed with their show that she's since sent letters of appreciation to the band, McConnell and Marion County Superintendent of Schools Tom Long -- as well as to the local media.

"I was immediately in awe as East Fairmont marched onto the field. Their clean lines and awesome sound was something spectacular to behold," Seelnacht's letter reads.

"I felt as if I were watching a college band in their full glory," it continued. "A standing ovation by a pleased crowd completed their performance and put a wide smile on my face. Kudos to these young and dedicated Bees!"

The Busy Bee Band & Honeybees performing at the Upper St. Clair Band Spectacular

McConnell, who worked with his father before taking over for him in 1989, was happily surprised that someone he didn't even know would go to such lengths to sing the band's praises -- especially in such a public way.

This type of recognition has happened occasionally before, he said.

"Especially when we've played out of the area and someone has seen us perform for the first time, occasionally they will drop us a line -- which means more to us than I can tell you," he said.

"It's especially nice because the kids had done such a great job that day -- I was really proud of them. In fact, they received two standing ovations. So it's nice when someone else feels the same way and takes the time to tell you," McConnell said.

EFHS was the only out-of-state band to attend the Upper St. Clair festival, but that was done at the invitation of the event organizer who liked what he had seen when the Busy Bee Band had performed previously, he said.

As part of their show, the 185-member band (which includes the majorettes, known as the Honey Bees) performed favorites such as "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "Sing, Sing, Sing" which features the huge 55-gallon barrel drums, McConnell said.

Members of the Busy Bee Band drum section playing on the "barrels".

Going into a new environment is exciting for McConnell, EFHS teacher Tracey Linn who does choreography for the Honey Bees and their students.

"I kind of like feeling like we're going in as the underdog and then hopefully we surprised them," he said with a proud smile.

Just four years ago, the band traveled to California for an appearance in the Rose Bowl Parade. They've played Pittsburgh Steeler football games and have traveled throughout the eastern part of the country.

"This kind of shows that you don't have to be in the wealthiest community and you don't have to have a tremendous amount of school money in order to keep your program going," McConnell said.

"And that's the beauty of our program because the community supports us so well."

Senior Rosanna Layman, who plays the clarinet and is an assistant band commander, said she was pleased to have give the audience something different.

"I guess when we first came on they may have thought we were just another band -- that we march the same way as the others. But when they saw us, they got really excited," Layman said.

Band Commander Joey Myers, who plays the drums, was especially pleased with the complimentary letter.

"I really like that she thought we were a college band, because that's quite a compliment," he said. "The reason we sound like a college band is because Mr. McConnell pushes us to play at that level. He wants us to do our very best."

Myers said the barrel drums are usually a big crowd pleaser.

That's because they're big and loud, plus we put them right up front by the audience so they can see all of the crossovers and technical stuff we do. They are really neat," Myers said.

Chris Ward, a senior who plays trombone and is also an assistant band commander, joked that this kind of praise makes all of the hot, sweaty days at band camp seem worthwhile.

Band Commander Joe Myers and Queen Bee Ashley Bray receiving a trophy for participating from members of the Upper St. Clair School District

"I also like the traveling we've done. Being in the Rose Parade was a humbling experience, especially when we made that wide turn onto Colorado Boulevard because there were like a million people right there," he said.

Senior Crystal West, an assistant band commander who plays the flute and piccolo, said she knew from the start that being in the Busy Bee Band would take a lot of work and dedication.

Still, she never considered quitting.

"This letter is really nice and unexpected, but it makes you realize that people really do listen to you and enjoy our music. Plus it's exciting to know that we could compete with bands from these bigger schools," West said. "And I was proud that our style was a lot different than theirs."

David Carpenter, a senior who plays trumpet and is an assistant band commander, said his band days have helped prepare him for the real world.



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