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Band geeks rule! New Marching Rockets Alumni band to perform in local St. Pat's parade

Published: Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 10:48 a.m. CDT

ROCK FALLS – Band geeks forever.

That might as well be the rallying cry of Rock Falls alumna Gretchen Koehler-Swaney.

Koehler-Swaney, 45, graduated from Rock Falls High School in 1985, where she played the snare drums and the xylophone.

Two years ago, she attended Homecoming – and asked if she could march with the band.

"The band director and drumline instructor were so welcoming that I joined," she said. "I had such a fabulous time, I wanted as many people as possible to have the same experience."

She posted a Facebook invitation for other alumni to join her, and at last year's homecoming, 40 former Marching Rockets showed up to perform.

"We had such a great turnout, either they attended or they actually joined the band," she said. "We doubled the size of the current band. People just came up to me continuously.

"One person said it saved their life by doing this."

The Rock Falls Marching Rockets Alumni band was born. And this year, it's not waiting for homecoming – the band will perform in Dixon's St. Patrick's Day parade on March 16.

The 40 members live all over the country, though, which makes band practice a bit tricky. Koehler-Swaney, for instance, lives in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Another member lives in California.

Distance, however, does not deter them.

"We put music on Facebook, recording and sheet music as well," Koehler-Swaney said. "We have virtual section leaders. What I've suggested is that, you as section leader, play music and put it up on YouTube so people can see fingerings and hearing places where you've stopped."

The band also has used Google Plus, a video conferencing tool, to stay in tune.

The band has face-to-face rehearsal twice a month, Koehler-Swaney said.

Aside from having fun, one of the band's missions is to support the current Marching Rockets. Through T-shirt sales at last year's homecoming, the alumni band raised $160 in one evening.

"We were able to immediately turn that around and provide a check to the band," she said. "What we want to continue doing is promoting them through community, through raising awareness and through helping them [financially]."

Want to join?

The 40-member Rock Falls Marching Rockets Alumni Band welcomes past classmates, even if they didn't play in the band in school.

Interested alumni can call Gretchen Koehler-Swaney, 847-476-2183, to sign up. She also is the contact to buy Rock Falls Marching Rockets Alumni band T-shirts.

Go to sites.google.com/site/marchingrocketsalumniband to learn more.

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