Brant Returns to Tiger Band Show with Paint Valley

“Our next band hails all the way from Bainbridge, Ohio – the Paint Valley Marching Band!”  When Bob Wenzel says these words at the Tiger Band Review on September 18, they will have special significance for Swing Band alumnus Noah Brant.  It will mark the first time he steps onto the field at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium as a band director.

Brant became Paint Valley’s band director in the spring of 2021, but his love for music started early – at age three. He received a toy saxophone for Christmas and all he wanted to do was play in a marching band. Diane Brant recounts that when Noah was in first grade she and her husband, Bill, were looking to relocate the family from the Akron area and “intentionally moved [to Massillon] because he wanted to be in the band and we knew Massillon was good!” With dreams of being a rock star and playing his instrument all day, he jumped at the opportunity to learn the alto sax when he reached the fifth grade band, ultimately switching to tenor sax before leaving for the high school.

Brant was a four-year member of the Tiger Swing Band as well as saxophone squad leader. A 2016 graduate of Washington High School, he was in the Freshmen Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Orchestra, Pit Orchestra, Basketball Band, and Jazz Orchestra. After graduation, Noah enrolled at Ohio University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education (instrumental focus), graduating in the fall of 2020.  Always a performer, he continued his marching band career as a member of OU’s Marching 110.

During college Noah worked summers at band camps in the area, including a stint with the GlenOak band.  He did his student teaching at Logan High School in the Logan-Hocking School District, outside Athens.  It was here that a chance encounter brought him to the attention of Paint Valley.  A local music store was being utilized by both school districts, and when Nick Turon, Paint Valley’s director, mentioned that he would be transitioning to another position in the district, the store’s repair person (who happened to be the father of two Logan band students) suggested Noah for the job.  Brant says he “really hit it off” with Turon and principal Joe Holbert. Once hired he jumped right in mid-year, starting at Paint Valley in the spring of 2021.

Brant runs the entire music department for grades 5-12, pulling from a student body of just over 500.  The program consists of fifth and sixth grade bands, Concert Band (primarily 7th and 8th grade students) and a Symphonic Band (upperclassmen and advanced performers) as well as marching band and basketball band, with a Jazz Band set to start up in January.

The 2020-2021 school year was particularly challenging for everyone, and the Paint Valley band program was no exception.  Due to staffing reassignment and attendance issues the entire fifth grade band was canceled.  To make up for this, administration has required all of this year’s sixth graders to take band during the first quarter. Brant is taking advantage of this by treating them as an “exploratory band”, encouraging each student to pick up and learn two instruments.  He says the benefits include engaging students who may be on the fence about which instrument is right for them, and allows him to work on fundamentals and core knowledge.  His theory seems to be working – of 52 students enrolled, 27 have already begun the process to continue in the band program.

Noah says his time in the Tiger Swing Band helped shape the director he is and looking back on the lessons taught by his former directors keeps him focused on the future. “Just as the directors made an impact on my life, I want to make that difference with my kids.” While he credits all his MTSB directors, he cites Mrs. Smithhisler as his biggest influence to go into music education. “The way she teaches and the way she cares about her students is the type of director I am trying to be. She doesn’t put up with anything, but she is caring and funny and has a connection with the kids.  This really resonated with me. [She made me realize that] the best way to contribute to the world is by helping other people, channeling it through the love of music and education.”

The 23 member marching band at Paint Valley is dramatically different than the 149 members the Tiger Swing Band had during Noah’s senior year, and it required some adjustment. “You have to have a different approach. If you are absent or miss a turn [on the field] in the Swing Band, it’s no big deal because there’s someone to step up. With 23 [at Paint Valley], if one person doesn’t hit the spot just right, you know it.”  Brant embraces the difference and makes sure his students understand that mistakes are part of the learning process. “Mistakes aren’t positive or negative. They are what we have to do in order to succeed. I will not be perfect. I will make mistakes, and I will have room to fix them.”

Noah’s short-term goal for his band is to “get back to having fun and making music”.  He says “I know what Mr. Neel is talking about when he says not to take the little things for granted. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with my students and learn more about their lives. I got to see a lot of kids dealing with Covid, but because we were having fun it gave them the ability to go out and face the world.”

In the long-term Noah would like his bands to return to OMEA contest (and bring home a plaque for the band room), get new concert band uniforms, expand their instrument inventory, and continue performing entertaining and challenging drill.  And, of course, win the Pickaway-Ross Battle of the Bands!

This trip marks the first time that Paint Valley has appeared at the Tiger Band Review.  Noah says his band is “ridiculously excited” for the opportunity – especially for the chance to see “Mr. Brant” marching with the Alumni Band. He says he can’t believe he gets to march with the alumni and direct his own band in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, both on the same night.  He is looking forward to reuniting with his former directors and band mates, and is excited for the chance to perform in front of them. “Actually, they’re very excited. I’m very nervous!”

The Paint Valley band is looking forward to travelling to Massillon, and plan to arrive early to have dinner downtown before the show. Brant has been holding back exposing his students to the Tiger Swing Band performances and traditions so his students will have some surprise and astonishment.  They are performing four different shows this year, a sort of hybrid between the Tiger Swing Band and a competition/corps-style band, and Noah can’t wait for the PBTS crowd to see their show. “There’s going to be some really cool stuff, and hopefully you guys enjoy it. It’s something I think you will all appreciate.”

“If, after last year, we can give something for people to put their pride and excitement into, then what a difference we’ve made in the world.”

Noah wants to thank his band booster organization for this trip specifically, but for everything they do. “They’re rock stars. I can ask them to do the most impossible things and they make it look easy.”  He is indebted to them for their assistance with the “business” aspects of the band as “they don’t teach you that in school.” His officers (Mindy Campbell, Amy Johnson, Andie Campbell, Jared Ross, and Jennifer Evans) do a lot of the heavy lifting, but Brant is grateful for all the band parents who get involved when help is needed.

Noah inherited a program with a solid social media presence and he has built on that by creating the role of Social Media Director, filled by Jen Evans. “Band camp was where we really saw how much having someone full-time doing that has made an impact. People are watching you and want you to be successful. We’re not just doing it for ourselves, but for the community. If, after last year, we can give something for people to put their pride and excitement into, then what a difference we’ve made in the world.”

Paint Valley Bands can be found on:
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Noah’s childhood photo courtesy of Diane and Bill Brant.
Paint Valley band photos courtesy of Paint Valley Bands/Jen Evans.