New director of bands leads Marching Pride to excellence

Published by , Author: Demetrius Ricks - Rocket Contributor, Date: September 25, 2016
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Dr. Jonathan Helmick is the new director of bands and an assistant professor of music.  He teaches a variety of classes at SRU and advises three student organizations on campus; this is his second marching season at Slippery Rock University.

Originally from northeast Ohio, Helmick earned his Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree and Bachelor of Arts in Business and Organizational Communications degree from the University of Akron, with honors.  Following his undergraduate degree, he went on to earn the Master in Music degree in Euphonium Performance from The University of Akron.  Later, Helmick also earned the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Conducting from The University of Southern Mississippi.

While earning his doctorate, Helmick both designed and taught shows for the “Pride of Mississippi” marching band.  During his time at Southern Miss, the marching band traveled to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  In 2011, he was honored to be invited to guest conduct at the Corso Estivo Musicale in Sicily as part of a summer arts program through the Federazione Bande Siciliane.

Before coming to SRU, Dr. Helmick served as the Director of Bands and was a low brass instructor at Jones County Junior College Symphonic Band; he was also director of the “Maroon Typhoon” Marching Band and taught a few courses like applied trombone, euphonium and tuba in addition to music fundamentals and music appreciation.  While still being a part of the faculty at Jones, the marching band garnered national attention when invited to perform in the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, IL.

Helmick couldn’t resist the opportunity to be a part of band program with a long history of success and tradition, which piqued his interest in SRU.

“Because of the outstanding ensembles, students, degrees and faculty that are part of the department of music, Slippery Rock University continues to draw students to their music program from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland, and so many more,” Helmick said.  “We have a phenomenal marching band and wind ensemble, a jazz program that is second to none, an award winning winter guard and a music education and music therapy program that places students in jobs throughout the country.”

According to Helmick, the Marching Pride was already great, but it’s still improving and getting better, and his time here has been “busy, busy, busy.”  The band program has grown by about 21 percent; the 2016-2017 school year had the pleasure of welcoming 97 freshmen into the musical ranks of the Marching Pride.

“With each new generation of Slippery Rock musicians comes the responsibility of passing along the collective narrative of the marching band, the department and the university,” Helmick said.  “We teach tradition, we teach music, we have fun and we strive for excellence!”

Helmick says his favorite part of both the Marching Pride and the SRU Wind Ensemble is being a part of the personal and professional growth of the students and ensembles.

“Music involves growing student leaders, who, in turn, develop a culture inside and outside of the student organizations; it involves a culture of honest self-assessment about where ‘we’ are and where ‘we’ want to go,” Helmick said.  “It involves setting high standards and structuring goals to achieve those ends, and it involves being a part of a family and being responsible to each other.”

Helmick says the university places high priority on transformational experiences, always striving for ‘Rock-Solid’ education and involvement.

“Both the marching band and wind ensemble bring together students from across all majors to work together for a common goal: to achieve excellence,” Helmick said.  “Music is our vehicle to that end.”

Sunday, Sept. 25 is Marching Pride’s biggest band show at the annual Collegiate Marching Band Festival (CMBF) in Allentown, Pa.  For seniors, it will be the last CMBF they will march in and the first for the freshmen; it will be the ‘passing of the torch’ to next year’s upperclassmen as they ascend the ‘big hill’ to march into J. Birney Crum Stadium, representing the Green and White among colleges and universities from all over the northeastern United States.

“The only band we are trying to upstage is the band we were yesterday,” Helmick said.

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