Billed as Alumni Night 2022, the event took place at Citizens Field and featured the Richard E. Parker Alumni Band enjoying camaraderie with each other and playing music from their era.
Richard E. Parker Alumni Band as part of EHS Alumni Night
Cathy Norman, founder of the Eastside High School Alumni Association and coordinator of the Richard E. Parker Alumni Band, helped coordinate the event.
“I love the tradition of family and community at Eastside High School,” Norman said. “We are one. When we were on campus, there was something special about the culture.
Norman said the alumni night is a great way to catch up with other EHS graduates.
“I love seeing the look of alumni grads,” Norman said. “There is something special about orange and green. I am excited about Ram Nation.
Norman graduated from EHS in 1983 and played clarinet while in the band.
The legacy of the former group director lives on
Parker, who died July 2, 2016, lives on in the hearts of those he touched during his 32 years as a group principal for Alachua County Schools, first at what is now Mebane High School in ‘Alachua (now Mebane Middle School), and for most of his career at Eastside.
Southeast 12th Avenue, the street leading to the school, was renamed Richard E. Parker Way in 2017.
“The group is not about competition,” Norman said. “It’s about getting the crowd excited. I like to see the community happy when we walk.
Norman said alumni night is important to her because she and her bandmates can show the community the traditional style the school band is known for.
In August, alumni band members and supporters demonstrated outside the Alachua County School Board office to bring the school band’s traditional style to the current band.
“Adding the traditional style back to the band is always on the table,” Norman said. “We would like to include it with the corps style.”
Alumni Night brings together old friends, classmates and bandmates
Dana Self Powers graduated from EHS in 1978 and played flute in the band. His sister was one of the first graduates in 1973 and his son also graduated from the school.
“It’s close to my heart,” Powers said. “It’s something to live for.”
Powers talked about the lessons Parker taught her when she was in the EHS group.
“He taught us that it was all about performance,” Powers said. “I am still motivated to play at 62. We played what was on the radio. He wrote it, we played it and we danced. We really are a family.
Carol Richardson graduated in 1984 and was a member of the band’s color guard. Richardson got the opportunity to be a color guard through her best friend in college. When they graduated and enrolled in EHS, they decided to try the positions and they did.
“I loved the unit and working together as a color guard,” Richardson said. “I was coming in freshman year and there were mostly seniors there. I loved walking in the UF parades. When it was time to come out onto the field, I was nervous but the community made us feel special. ”
She said alumni night is a great way to catch up with old friends.
“I love orange and green,” Richardson said. “I made a lot of friends. It’s fun to hang out with friends you grew up with.
Music for the event was provided by Art Alston, a local disc jockey, and three vendors were on hand, including Unique Luxury Candle, t-shirt company TAS for Christ and The Honey Way Bakery.
Darryl “Heavy D” Morten graduated from EHS in 1984 and played bass drum in the band.
He took his talents to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee where he also played in the band. After his performances, Morten watched his grandson and niece drumming.
“I love music,” Morten said. “I see them as the future.”
Alonzo Young was part of the first EHS class in 1973 and played trumpet.
Young said Parker inspired him to play trumpet and perform in the band.
“It’s nice to hang out with old people,” Young said. “We bring back tradition and history.”