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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v14n07)
Crossroads of America Scout Band - 100 - by Mario Morone
by Mario Morone
posted: Mar. 31, 2017

John Valdez is the Chair for the Crossroads of America Scout Band's 100th Anniversary Celebration. He recently discussed how his scouting and musical backgrounds crossed paths.
"I was active in scouting and knew about the band since the Director (Harvey U. Gill) lived near me and I cut his grass. I got into the Scout Band in 1982 after graduating from Ball State University in 1981, majoring in Commercial Art and minoring in Music. I've been with them since 1982 and am basically, the only adult that helps out with the percussion section. I play all percussion, but more times than not, the drum set. I grew up in Indianapolis and started playing drums in grade school, then at Arlington High School and college, where I played in the concert, marching, pep and jazz bands," he explained.
The Scout Band is preparing for several forthcoming events this season. "We will play for the Mini-Marathon downtown at the starting line, which we have done for the past 15 to 20 years. I think that we are the only group that has played for this event every year since they started having entertainment. From probably 1957 to 1993, we played in every Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis the day before the race and we're hoping to do that again this year. We have continued to go out to the track every year, playing at the race and marching around the track. To my knowledge, other than Purdue University, we are the only band that has continued that tradition every year at the invitation of Purdue University. I think that Speedway High School has done it many times. We have marched many more miles around the track than any other band in the world, especially for a non-high school band. We practice once a week," Valdez mentioned.

Military Park circa 1919
Military Park circa 1919
image courtesy of Scout Band of America archives


"During the month of August, for about the past twenty years, we have played for the wreath laying ceremony of Indiana's only President, Benjamin Harrison, at Crown Hill cemetery. It's very much appreciated because his descendants actually lay the wreath there. We have played a Christmas concert annually for about the past dozen years at the Indiana State Museum. In many cases, we might get a couple of weeks' notice when we are asked to play. Most of the people involved in the Scout Band come from another scout unit around the area. We are Venture Crew 559, not a Boy Scout troop. We are called the Crossroads of America Scout Band because we have females in the band (previously called the Central Indiana Boy Scout Band), which started in the late 1970s. The band is composed of about three-fourths youth and about one-fourth adults. There was a time through the years, where we had as few as six or seven scouts in the band and in other years, there were as many as 150 in the band. It really varies with the times. We decided in the 1970s that it would be a good time to for parents to sit in with their kids to play and give guidance. Many times, I am just backing the percussion section, playing the snare, bass drum, cymbals or any number of percussion instruments. We have many youth and adults sit in with the band, but the percussion section is a different breed of musicians where we don't always play the same instrument on each song. As an adult, I've had to act like a traffic cop, directing the scouts so that every part is covered for each song. I want to feature the scouts in the band - that's what it is all about. I have played in the band for more than 30 years and am currently the equipment manager," he noted.
"The most rewarding thing about being in the Scout Band is working with the youth. The kids get excited before a performance. I used to feel that way before playing a concert as a boy. The fact that we have melded it with scouting makes it very unique. We are the oldest continuously operating scout band in the country (and possibly the world). The band has evolved since it started as a drum and bugle corps in 1917 by our founder F. O. Belzer. We probably did not have a full band until the late 1920s," Valdez surmised.
The Band celebrates a historic event later this year. "Our 100th anniversary concert will be at Camp Belzer on July 7th, playing in an outdoor arena that will include patriotic anthems as well as pop tunes, like the 1812 Overture with 2-75 mm Howitzer cannons from Fort Harrison. The Army National Guard will re-enact this, it will include all the bells as well. There are concert portions of the song where the bells go off that will be rung by parents and siblings of scouts in the band. It will probably be topped off with fireworks. That's just one of the things we are planning during our week-long celebration from July 2nd to 8th," he said.
Bill Schofield, President of the Scout Band's Belzer Scout Band Booster Club, said, "I played French horn in the Scout Band as a youth back in the mid-1960's until about 1970 until I went to college. I returned in 1992 for their 75th anniversary. I played in the Arlington High School concert band, marching band and orchestra. I was a Cub Scout and an Eagle Scout in Pack and Troop 62 which met at North United Methodist Church. My first tour was in 1963 when we went to Wheeling, West Virginia and the Centennial Celebration of Beckley, West Virginia. In 1964, the band went to the National Jamboree in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania with a stop at the New York World's Fair. We returned to the World Fair in New York in 1965. Other tours that I went were a riverboat trip on the Ohio River that stopped at sights along the way in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and to a 1969 Scouts jamboree in Idaho," he recalled.

Camp Belzer circa 1932
Camp Belzer circa 1932
image courtesy of Scout Band of America archives


Elizabeth Howard, with two sons in the band, is one of the many parents that play in the Scout Band. "Zachary is the Scout Band Youth President and plays the alto sax. He and his twin brother, Xavier, joined in 6th grade in January, 2015. They went on tour that summer to Washington, D.C. where they played in a July 4th parade in front of the White House. The leadership there is unbelievable with their expectations and assistance in their activities with the kids. Zachary is currently working on the 100th anniversary events. Both boys enjoy every minute of it. Xavier wanted to play the French horn in the school band, but was discouraged; however, the Scout Band had an extra French horn and invited him to play it. Now, he's a first chair French horn player in the school band. Zachary wanted to start playing the baritone saxophone and they encouraged him to try it. It's so incredible that the Scout Band encourages the members to try new instruments. They can take the instruments home and practice them. It's exciting for them to say that they have two instruments to play. In 2016, they went on a tour that included Illinois, Iowa and Wyoming. It's a great organization. I joined the Scout Band a year ago because I played the clarinet when I was in high school. They ask parents to play in the band as well. My daughter, who plays the piano, goes to the practices and is interested in the band, too," she said.

Race Day 2015
Race Day 2015
image courtesy of Scout Band of America archives


Their music has taken the band outside Indiana extensively. "We have gone on tour annually. The band has played in 47 out of our 50 states, visiting Canada six times and England twice. I found some historical information where a portion of the band traveled to Hungary for a World Jamboree back in the 1940s. We've probably had more Eagle Scouts come through the band than any other unit throughout the council. Our alumni may be close to 10,000 people and of that, a good number are Eagle Scouts. Even today, we have a lot of girls in the band that are in Girl Scout Troops. The U.S. is the only country in the world that has the boys and girls organizations separate from each other. It may be possible that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts may join together in a scout organization someday," Valdez said.
According to www.scoutband.com, the Crossroads of America Scout Band's website, Francis O. Belzer was Indianapolis' first Scout executive, who formed a drum and bugle corps in 1917 with Campbell Bailey as director. By the 1920s, it had expanded into a full band with Henry Schprengfeil, director of the Indianapolis Military Band, as the new director.
Venture Crew 559 is for members aged 14 to 21 who do not have a troop of their own and for members who wish to be involved with the Venture Scout Program. The Crossroads of America Scout Band is open to all youth who play band instruments. If a musician does not belong to a troop, they may join Venture Crew 559 or can be assisted in finding a troop. Practices are every Sunday afternoon from 2:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. at Saint Lawrence Catholic School at 46th & Shadeland Avenue on the Northeast side of Indianapolis. New members are welcome at every practice.


mario@broadripplegazette.com
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