Cary News: Opinion

Cary’s Heritage: Cary High band grows from humble beginnings

Cary Band Day has a long tradition in the town. This year’s event is set for Nov. 1. In 2012, Chloe McCann performed with the Cary High School color guard in the Cary Band Day parade.
Cary Band Day has a long tradition in the town. This year’s event is set for Nov. 1. In 2012, Chloe McCann performed with the Cary High School color guard in the Cary Band Day parade. 2012 FILE PHOTO

Before there was Cary Band Day, Harold Burt started the very first band at Cary High School. We’ve told the story in this column of Cary Band Day. Here is the story of how the band got started.

Harold Burt: In 1950, I came to Cary High to teach industrial arts shop and drawing part-time. As a sideline, I asked for the opportunity to organize and start a band. I found 12 students that had instruments, but only two that I felt could actually play. The rest could barely manage one song.

But we started a band and then doubled the number in a few days. We made our first appearance at the first ball game of that year, as small as it was. My original goal was to grow Cary’s band to the same size as Broughton High School’s Marching Hundred, but I fell short of that.

When I left Cary, there were 35 to 40 students in the band. The Broughton Hundred was the outstanding marching band of Wake County. Fifty was considered a large band. I was building and creating the band at Cary High long before Cary Band Day got started and they went to Europe, to the Rose Bowl and all the other fabulous things they’ve done.

I’ve got a write-up from the 1956 Wilmington paper when we appeared at the Azalea Festival, which was our first big event. The Azalea Festival Parade article says, “The Cary High School band majorettes and flag-bearers are scheduled to appear in Wilmington during the ninth annual Azalea Festival parade.” That was a big deal. No comparison to the events that they have accomplished since. I guess I took them from two students who could sort of play their instruments to winning a spot in this parade in six years.

I resigned from Cary in 1956 to teach part-time, starting bands at several other schools. I’ve had a lot of students over the years. I teach all band instruments, wind instruments and percussion, but no strings. The music I have taught is typically marching band music, classical and all types of music that we could play with a band and a marching band. We had concerts with overtures, too.

When I retired from teaching in schools, I bought the E.R. Pool Music Company in Cameron Village. After six years there, I moved my store to Kildaire Farm Road in Cary. We all had instruments, including piano and keyboards. I divided an area of the store into small studios and started the School of Music, where I taught lessons. If you rented an instrument, you got free lessons during the summer to prepare you for the fall. I sold all types of sheet music, too, from classical to country, jazz and rock.

When economic conditions required me to downsize, I moved the store and School of Music into the back part of the building. Then on Dec. 31, 2010, my lease expired and I decided it wasn’t wise to re-issue a new lease. So I started teaching private lessons in my home.

Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina,” first published in August 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel.

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