Riverview will be marching down the streets of Chicago this Thanksgiving with a new director in the lead.
Every two years, the Riverview High School Kiltie Band takes a field trip. Although, field trip is putting it lightly.
“I don’t care if you’re just going to Walmart,” Music Department secretary Kathryn Farmer said. “If you are taking 100 and some people with you, it’s a trip.”
Farmer is responsible, in part, for organizing the transportation of 140 students from Sarasota to Chicago to participate in that city’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s nothing short of a logistical feat.
It’s not Farmer’s first time organizing a trip of this magnitude. She’s been with the school for 26 years. However, it’s yet another first in a series for the Riverview’s new band director, Andrew Dubbert.
Mark Spreen stepped down as band director at the end of the 2017 school year after 24 years, leaving the school with a legacy to fill. Spreen not only maintained the program’s reputation of excellence, which boasts more than five decades of superior ratings, but also was a Riverview alumnus himself.
“I always thought he was irreplaceable from working with him all those years,” Farmer said.
In many ways, Spreen was the face of what she calls the Kiltie tradition — an ineffable source of pride for Riverview students and alumni.
“At first we were a little apprehensive,” Booster Club President Tim Beattie said. “Not knowing how somebody coming in is going to handle things and the tradition that the band has … here we were coming up on bringing someone new in (after) 58 years of superior ratings.”
As booster club president, Beattie was on the band director selection committee. With one son having participated in the band before he graduated and another still involved in the program, Beattie is a believer in Riverview’s Kiltie tradition.
Yet, despite his initial unease, Beattie said he believes the school’s legacy is in good hands.
In a way, Dubbert was made to lead the Riverview High School Kiltie Band.
“He interned here under Mr. Spreen before he got his first teaching position,” Farmer said. “So he was groomed a little bit.”
However, interning under a seasoned and knowledgeable educator is one thing. Taking over leadership of the program he helped build is another.
“You don’t want to be that guy that comes in and messes it up,” Dubbert said. “You have to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be.”
But according to Beattie and Farmer, Dubbert is far from messing it up.
“The band is doing fantastic, and that’s the best thing,” Beattie said. “Apprehension has been eased and there is a lot of excitement now.”
As for Dubbert, he said he is adapting to Riverview’s robust band schedule and the host of other Kiltie traditions — traditions like the impending trip to Chicago.
The trip, like the job itself, has been a challenge Dubbert has risen to in the face of a daunting legacy. He’ll be leading the Kilties in front of a national TV audience — a role those close to the program feel he is ready to fill.
“It doesn’t matter how good the person before was, people who come in have renewed energy and fresh ideas,” Farmer said. “It’s always fun to sit back and watch.”