Bill Gordon, below, accepts a good luck poster from sixth-grade band members Abigail Hill and Karina Rodriguez during the marching band’s practice Friday. Gordon said one of the keys to building a solid marching band program is recruiting the younger musicians and making band so much fun that they want to be a part of it once they’re old enough to march. Above, Gordon helps Shawe freshman Grant Suggett bring his xylophone out for practice behind the elementary school on Friday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Bill Gordon, below, accepts a good luck poster from sixth-grade band members Abigail Hill and Karina Rodriguez during the marching band’s practice Friday. Gordon said one of the keys to building a solid marching band program is recruiting the younger musicians and making band so much fun that they want to be a part of it once they’re old enough to march. Above, Gordon helps Shawe freshman Grant Suggett bring his xylophone out for practice behind the elementary school on Friday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
"I'm the king of the band geeks," Bill Gordon says with a laugh as he sticks his chest out in pride.

The band director at Prince of Peace Catholic Schools sits in an overcrowded music room at Shawe Memorial High with faded marching band photos from his heyday hanging on the wall behind him.

"That (geek) used to be an insult, but now everybody embraces that. We've got some band geeks in this band and we don't mean nerds, we mean people who are hardcore and who just love it. That's the way I was," Gordon says.

He joined the marching band as a seventh grader at Trimble County High School in 1979. "But I actually knew from sixth grade what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a band director. I mean, I just dug it."

Back then, he says, the shows weren't as elaborate as they are today. There weren't any props on the field and there weren't nearly as many sets or formations for the band members to remember.

Gordon finished high school as first trumpet player in the TCHS band. He went to the University of Kentucky for one year and finished up at Northern Kentucky University.

Since then he has worked with the bands at several schools, including a four-year stint at Prince of Peace in the 1990's and five years at his old stomping grounds in Trimble County.

It wasn't until Gordon's return to Shawe that he was able to take on the challenge of starting a marching band from scratch.

"They didn't have marching band when I was here before, but when I took jobs before, at Jac-Cen-Del and at Trimble County High School, some of the basics were in place," he says. They had uniforms. They had been marching for years and he didn't have to think about those basics.

Gordon didn't try to do everything at once, when he returned to Prince of Peace in 2011.

"I had it in my mind from the beginning that I was going to start a marching band. But there was no way I was going to tackle it the first year," he says. "It was a multi-year plan to start a competitive marching band: First year, no marching, just pep band; then parades the next year; then finally competitive marching."

When he took the job, Gordon says Prince of Peace already had a pretty good junior high band with about 15 members and the high school band had about 10 people. They only performed at concerts and a musical in the spring.

"As soon as I got here, we started doing pep band. You need it. It's good P.R. And the kids like to do it. It's the most fun thing to do, to go and play pop music at a basketball game, in front of the biggest crowd you'll see," he says.

In the second year, Gordon had a goal of getting the students ready for a performance at King's Island in the spring. "Before it came up, the kids were like, 'Aren't we going to march in the Christmas Parade?' I said if you want to, we'll get it ready. They did a good job and it was fun and it gave us some momentum to keep going from there."

With a parade under their belt, it was time to start setting their sights on the field.

"One of the hardest parts of getting the marching band going was helping the younger kids to understand what we were doing all of this for. We don't have football, so there's no halftime show to get them excited," he says.

So last year, Gordon took his students to contests to whet their appetites for band competitions. They liked what they saw, Gordon says, but they may have also been a little intimidated.

"For the kids, it was a big deal to memorize all that music. They went from maybe just memorizing one song for a parade to now when we had to memorize three really long songs," Gordon says.

"We just take little by little, adding up and building on until we've got it all done. They got it. The kids who said they couldn't do it - they're doing it."

The students made their greatest strides this summer when they went to a band camp - Camp Crescendo - for a week in Lebanon Junction, Ky.

"That was a big help," he said. "We were already playing our first two songs in that first week. They really surprised me."

As the band grew into what Gordon had been envisioning, he was hard at work in the background as well, securing some of the most basic supplies. "We still needed uniforms. I just kept looking (online) for the green and white (uniforms) and I wanted to find one with a sash.

"Finally we found them and we got a set of 80 uniforms for $1,800. I would have spent $20,000 or more for 80 new uniforms."

On Saturday, Gordon and his 46-member marching band entered their first competition of the season with the show "Gladiator" based on the 2000 movie.

Gordon says he and his musicians aren't simply satisfied to finally march. "We're going into the season to win. I don't want us to go in and have us not do very well and then we get a pass because it's our first year. I don't want the people in the crowd going, 'Awe, it's their first year, let's give them a break.' I don't want these kids to get a golf clap, I want the people standing and cheering when they're done."

With all that said, though, Gordon is also tying to impress upon his students what they are a part of in this season.

"These students are the founding members of this program. That's pretty cool. I don't know if it has sunk in yet, but when they look back and can say, 'We started this whole thing,' I think that will be special for them."