ST. PETERSBURG — They were just coming off the momentum of performing on the freezing cold streets of Times Square in New York City for the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade and were rehearsing for a busy spring season packed with local performances.
The Second Time Arounders, a St. Petersburg “alumni” marching band of 440 adult members who previously belonged to high school, college or military marching bands, had it all mapped out.
They were going to perform in the Ybor City St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Chasco Fiesta parade in New Port Richey and the Festival of Bands in Dunedin, where the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade crew surprised them in 2018 with the invitation to perform in the 2019 parade.
But then the pandemic canceled everything. Typically, the band would perform five or six times in the spring.
“Our entire season just got completely wiped out," said auxiliary member Candace Rotolo, who is on the rifle team.
“It’s the first time we had to completely stop rehearsals and it’s disappointing because you put in all this work. But more than anything, you miss your bandmates.”
Fellow band members Brett Husselbaugh and Lee Lafleur also missed their bandmates. After seeing other bands like the Milwaukee Symphony, Hamilton (Canada) Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the Florida State University orchestra give virtual performances, the two decided to give it a shot.
“Brett and I were inspired and we knew a lot of people were home with time on their hands,” said Lafleur, 60, a longtime member who plays the flute and the piccolo and coordinates the band’s trips.
So they put out a call to all the members: Send in a video playing your instrument, twirling your baton or waving your flag to On Broadway, the tune the band performed at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
They told everyone but their band director, Bill Findeison, to surprise him.
Given that the band is an “older group,” Lafleur said he didn’t expect half of the members to participate.
But they got 80 entries.
“It’s intimidating to play a solo,” Lafleur said, “but the fact that so many people did that was amazing.”
The band makes it look easy in the video, but Husselbaugh was quick to admit it wasn’t so simple.
“It’s incredibly difficult for many people to be able to record their performance in isolation without being able to hear or see the rest of the band,” he said.
Husselbaugh and Lafleur each spent about 90 hours working on editing the video, which is just over three minutes long and features cameos from almost every major instrument in the band: the trumpet, drums, clarinet, saxophone, the flute. It even has appearances from some of the majorettes.
All of them synchronized and all on the beat.
This video is special because it’s the last performance the group had with one of its members, Thomas Gatscher, a 55-year-old tuba player who immigrated from Germany and came to St. Petersburg specifically to join the band.
Gatscher passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack four days after he recorded his part. The band is grateful for the memory with him.