This article appeared in the Dartmouth/Westport CRONICLE on October 21st by Curt Brown. To view the original article, please click here.
Ian Flint has succeeded the iconic Bill Kingsland
DARTMOUTH — The first time Ian Flint saw the Dartmouth High Marching Band was 1998 and he was a teenager in the Blue Ridge High School Marching Band in New Milford, Pennsylvania.
His high school didn’t have a football team, but it had a big-time, 120-member, competitive, marching band and that was how Flint first became acquainted with the Dartmouth High School Marching Band.
“I grew up watching the Dartmouth band. It’s a program I’ve always looked up to,” he said.
The following year in the spring of 1999, still a Pennsylvania high school student, Flint crossed paths with the DHS Indoor Percussive Unit at the World Championships in Dayton, Ohio.
“The level of excellence was so high. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something like that,” he said. “It has such a long-storied tradition.”
In 2006, Flint became part of DHS Marching Band program when he was named a system-wide brass instructor. He remained in that position until 2015 when he left to become the head band director at Bellows Free Academy Fairfax in Fairfax, Vermont.
And 22 years from when he first saw the Dartmouth band as a Pennsylvania teenager, Flint, now 39, replaced Bill Kingsland, who retired in June as the band’s director and the music director for Dartmouth Public Schools.
“For me, it is about continuing the tradition we have,” he said.
Superintendent of Schools Bonny Gifford said Flint is “a tremendous addition” to the Dartmouth music program.
“When I interviewed him I was impressed when he said he had his eye on this position for a long time. To prepare for a chance to be chosen he took a position in Vermont that would provide him with leadership experience. How many folks look so far ahead and do what is necessary to achieve their goals? He is enthusiastic, talented and well respected,” Gifford said in a statement.
It’s not an ideal time to take a band program under wing because of the pandemic, but Flint said he is focused on making this year as meaningful as possible for his students. “The students come first and they make it a great experience,” he said.
To say this year has been different is an understatement. Competitions are virtual. They are filmed at the stadium by DCTV and sent to the judges. The band season is half over and there have been no in-person concerts.
The woodwind and brass sections, the percussive and color guard don’t practice as one because of space limitations at the high school parking lot. The woodwind and brass sections practice 10 feet apart without masks. The percussive unit and color guard wear face coverings and are 6 feet apart. The shows are written specific for the spacing.
There will be no trip to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the band will be going for its fifth consecutive national championship. There will be no New Bedford Veterans’ Day Parade where the band was one of the crowd favorites, proudly marching down William Street to the delight of spectators. There is no traveling at all this year.
But even though the competition has been virtual, the results have been the same — the percussive and wind and color guard are all undefeated, according to Flint.
Madison Bettencourt, a 17-year-old DHS senior member and tri-captain of the color guard, said this is not the senior year she envisioned because of the pandemic, but Flint’s positive attitude has made it as enjoyable as possible. Many schools have dropped band all together because of the virus.
Bettencourt, who has been in the band for 6 1/2 years, said Kingsland is “an icon” with the band and in Dartmouth and Flint was faced with the enormous challenge of organizing a band season because of the limitations caused by COVID-19. “He came in and showed he can fill Mr. Kingsland’s shoes because this was not an easy task for anyone,” she said.
Still, she remains excited about the band season, saying they are “making history” by rehearsing through the pandemic, which is “special” because it has never been done before.
Bettencourt said people are suffering and others have it far worst than the band because of COVID-19. “I’m trying to remember that,” she said.
She also wanted to give credit to her two other tri-captains on the color guard, Mia Paynton and Ryley Thatcher, who with her have tried to make this band season a great experience for the younger color guard members.
Flint credits the band members for the results. “They’re doing it for themselves. That’s why virtual works for us,” he said. “It worked out better than I ever could have imagined. I don’t see any difference in the motivation.”
He told the band their competitive scores reflect their rehearsals. “Nothing comes easy. It’s all about hard work,” he said. “From the first day, they were ready to go. Let’s be great. The results happen because of the rehearsals. You can’t play defense (in band competitions). You can only play offense.”
Flint said he can’t wait for the pandemic to be over and for things to return to normal.
“It works. It’s good. It’s positive. Let’s keep pushing ahead,” he said.