Inside Lower Moreland’s Nationally-Acclaimed Band Program


The LMHS Wind Ensemble performs at Carnegie Hall in 2019.

Varun Singh, Writer

A few months ago, LMHS’ Jazz Ensemble won first place at the WorldStrides Musical Festival with near-perfect scores from all three judges, beating schools from across the United States and receiving an “Outstanding Band” award as well as individual honors. Just over a decade ago, the Symphonic Band played in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. In 2013, the Symphonic Band traveled to Florida where it recorded a piece for an original Disney animation. And just a year before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Wind Ensemble played at Carnegie Hall, the most prestigious concert stage in the country, and received a “superior” rating. How did such a small district rise to national musical prominence?

I asked Mr. Erin Stroup, Lower Moreland High School’s band director and Music Department Chair, how the band program became so successful in his 24 years of teaching. The answer lies in traditions and community. 

Mr. Stroup found his passion for music playing saxophone in the Wind and Jazz ensembles at Williamsport Area High School. The program was led by Paul Kellerman, who served as a mentor and an inspiration to Mr. Stroup. He graduated from Mansfield University, which recently inducted him into its Hall of Fame, earned a master’s degree in Education from the University of the Arts, and continued with education leadership after his master’s. After college, he landed his first job as LMHS’ band director. 

When Mr. Stroup first arrived at Lower Moreland, only seven musicians were brave enough to be in the high school’s band program. “We’re gonna start something that’s gonna be talked about for a very long time,” he remembered thinking. Mr. Stroup’s outstanding leadership raised that number to a whopping 160 students, and in the coming years, he added the Wind Ensemble in 2012 and Jazz Lab in 2017.

We’re gonna start something that’s gonna be talked about for a very long time

Mr. Stroup’s primary teaching philosophy is to support students in any way he can. At the start of the year, many freshmen are not at their preferred skill level. But with the specially designed Concert Band class, Mr. Stroup helps them reach the level they want to be at, and eventually, these students become role models for younger students, take it upon themselves to organize section-wide practices, help them master challenging pieces, and show them that they too can improve their musical abilities. 

Music, in Mr. Stroup’s mind, is one of the few activities that “requires 100% of participation from 100% of people, 100% of the time.” If just one person plays loudly, incorrectly, or out of tune, the entire band pays the price of a subpar performance. By acquiring the skills to avert these issues early, the band as a whole can produce spectacular performances. 

With these strategies driving the program, the Jazz Band has been invited to perform at several selective competitions, including the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival seven times (placing in the top three six of those times), the Swing Central Jazz Festival four times, and the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in 2015, which it won. Likewise, the Symphonic Band has traveled to Florida to play in Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. 

Even with the endless rows of trophies lining the back of the band room, Mr. Stroup pointed out that the band program is never just about the awards. “The trophies just gather dust,” he said, “When I see those trophies I know exactly who was in the band. I know exactly where we were.” Building relationships with students, keeping in touch with alumni, and learning the impact the band program has had on the students are more rewarding than any number of trophies. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the band couldn’t participate in its usual traditions, among them Pep Band for football games, a trip to Universal Studios, and the senior graduation ceremony. Mr. Stroup, having built up the band program from practically nothing, however, is confident that the band program will continue to thrive “because of great leadership and hard work” that the students themselves bring to the program, ensuring that while the student body changes from year to year, Lower Moreland’s rich legacy and traditions will truly never graduate.