TMP student gives it a twirl
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Kathy Dreiling Amrein said she always had been a little envious while watching high school marching bands being led by a baton twirler.
So she was "thrilled" when she received an email from the mother of one her students at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School this fall, asking if her daughter could give twirling a whirl.
And just like that, the longtime band director had a twirler.
"My mom saw an ad in the newspaper for twirling lessons when I was in fifth grade and asked if I wanted to do it," 12-year-old Allison Campbell said. "I've always wanted to be a cheerleader, so I thought (twirling) would be fun, too."
Campbell, in just her third year of twirling, already has won some out-of-town competitions and continues to hone her skills in the driveway of her family home.
On homecoming Sept. 21, Campbell led the Monarchs' marching band made up of 100-plus musicians in grades 7 through 12 down Main Street for the homecoming parade.
This is the inaugural year for seventh- and eighth-grade classes to be at TMP, where Campbell is a seventh-grader. And Amrein -- in her 33rd year of teaching music, including the last 11-plus at TMP -- now is in charge of the junior high and high school band.
"I love having a junior high band," said Amrein, who thinks having the younger students under her direction will make for a smooth transition into high school.
Making Amrein's year even better was having her junior high band of 77 students perform, with Campbell twirling in front of it, at the Monarchs' final home game Thursday. It is believed to be the first time since the 1990s TMP's band was led by a twirler.
Helping revive the art of twirling in Hays was a TMP graduate, Chris (Pfannenstiel) Schumacher, a Monarch twirler during her high school days who graduated in 1987.
Schumacher said twirling "kind of faded away" a few years after she graduated, at least in these parts of the state. Hays High School also had twirlers into the 1990s.
But Schumacher helped bring it back, to both local schools.
Her oldest daughter, Shelby, has been twirling since she was 2 years old and began taking lessons in Salina, where they lived at the time. The Schumacher family moved to Hays approximately six years ago, and with it they brought a lot of enthusiasm for twirling.
Shelby Schumacher, now a junior at Hays High and the Indians' twirler, started a twirling program, Hays Twirl Academy, a few years ago. So in addition to still taking lessons herself in Salina, Schumacher teaches in her academy one night a week and also gives private lessons.
Campbell, who also takes dance lessons, said she got her start at home with a toy baton. And watching Shelby Schumacher march in parades down Main Street peaked her interest. Then, she heard about Schumacher's academy.
Shelby Schumacher still was on the mend from heart surgery when Campbell decided to march in the TMP homecoming parade. So Schumacher's mom came to the rescue.
"We put her routine together, and she learned it in three to four weeks, which is pretty amazing," Chris Schumacher said of Campbell. "It's kind of unique for her, and I'm really happy for her."
Amrein said having a twirler adds to a marching band's performance.
"It really makes it something special," Amrein said. "It adds a little pizzazz, and she's doing great in front of a crowd, especially for her age."
Campbell's work ethic makes Amrein excited for the next five years.
"Any time someone takes private lessons on anything you're going to get better," she said. "You know anyone who comes and asks to perform with you has drive and dedication."
Now, Campbell would like to perform at a basketball game this winter.
It would have to be at a high school game, because she is busy during junior high games -- as a Monarch cheerleader.
"I would have to come up with my own routine," Campbell said, her eyes lighting up. "But if I could get their music, I could do it if they want."