The Austintown Fitch Band was established in 1931 under the direction of Kenneth Evans. Evans transitioned what had been a school orchestra, which had been under the direction of Issac Proser, into the band as we know it today. He developed the first marching unit, and they wore red uniforms with blue caps and capes. Evans remained at his post until 1942 when he resigned and was replaced by A. Glenn Snell, a graduate of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Snell and his wife Mildred moved to Austintown bringing with them their young son Lawrence “Larry” Snell. As Mr. Snell made efforts to increase the band’s membership, its activities were restricted due to the country being at war. The band played at numerous patriotic celebrations and for the boys who were leaving to join the armed forces and fight in World War II. Many boys from Fitch High School left school to fight for the American cause, so many times the band played for band members themselves who were leaving for duties overseas. Richard Hawley, who was a first trumpeter with the band in 1942, was a band member killed in action while on duty in the United States Navy.
The band began their well-known fundraising efforts as far back as 1942 when they collected and sold waste paper. Their parents furnished pick-up trucks and labor. Admission to a concert was a stack of newspapers or a magazine. Eleven tons of paper was collected at one concert! By 1944 the band members and their parents had raised $2,000 which was just what was needed to completely outfit the band in navy blue and red coats, trousers, caps and plumes. The 1944 design is not far removed from the distinct uniforms the band wears today.
In 1948 Donald “Squire” Hurrelbrink, director of the National Championship V.F.W. Boys Band of Girard and Warren, joined Glenn Snell to increase the size and quality of the band. Hurrelbrink had also graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. While Glenn Snell focused on the concert bands, Hurrelbrink took on the marching band. In 1949 Glenn Snell was promoted and appointed Principal of Austintown’s First Elementary School, Woodside. Hurrelbrink took on the responsibility of the growing band program. During this time, several band members graduated and we accepted into the Ohio State Marching Band and six band members played in the Army and Navy bands during and after World War II. Hurrelbrink directed the band until his retirement in 1971. During his years, a female Color Guard and a Flag Line who proudly carried traditional flags of the American Revolutionary times were added. The Flag Codes of the United States were followed to a "T", and members shined their brass belt buckles prior to each performance. During that time, the band was recognized as a superior Concert Band, a legacy that has endured throughout the years.
Lawrence “Larry” Snell was no stranger to the Fitch Band. He grew up a member of both the Fitch Band and Hurrelbrink’s military band, and he was selected by the Austintown Board of Education to continue the rich traditions and legacies his father began to institute years earlier. For eight years prior to becoming the director of Fitch Band, he served as North Jackson’s Band Director. From 1971 until his retirement in 2004, Larry Snell made his mark and impression in Ohio Music Education. He continued to refine the military style and traditions of the band at a time when it was popular to become a “show” band or a “corps” style band. He turned “The Stars and Stripes Forever” into the calling card of the Fitch Band, ending each football show with our National March. The uniforms of both his father and his band director were tweaked but not wholly changed. A rifle line was added to the flags and Color Guard, and the notoriety of the band grew from his efforts.
In 2004, Larry Snell retired handing the reins of his band to one of his students, Wesley O’Connor. While O’Connor graduated from nearby Chaney High School, he had taken private lessons from Larry Snell. O’Connor is a graduate of the Dana School of Music and holds a Masters Degree from Kansas State University. He has embraced the traditions and rich history of Fitch Band as one of high schools remaining “military bands.” Replacement of uniforms over a decade old has begun with a nod to the past with navy blue hats, but in the same military style. Since 2005, "Tradition with Innovation" has become the theme of the O’Connor Fitch Bands.
From 2012 to 2016, he had the assistance of Austintown Middle School Band Director Marc Pupino, also a graduate of Dana School of Music, teaching and planting the seeds for future Fitch Band members in the Austintown Intermediate and Middle Schools. With 22 years as a band director, Pupino served Austintown musicians for 9 of those years. Pupino had since transitioned to a role as an Austintown School District Principal, and O'Connor was assisted by Jeremy McClaine, then the Director of Bands at Austintown Middle School and Assistant Director for the Fitch Band. McClaine has a Masters Degree from Duquesne University and a Bachelors Degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. McClaine joined the Austintown Music Department in 2014 as a paraprofessional with the 5th Grade Band Program. In 2015, he began teaching full time as the 5th Grade Band Director and general music teacher, and in 2016, he transitioned to Director of Bands at Austintown Middle School. McClaine has initiated innovative curriculum for the recruitment of 5th grade students into the music ensembles and embraces the high standards and expectations of the Fitch Band.
In 2017, the 85th edition of the Fitch Marching Band saw the debut of new uniforms as the Band led the Main Street Parade at Walt Disney World, Florida for Presidents’ Day. In April 2018, the Band was featured in our Nation’s Capital for the National Cherry Blossom Parade.
In 2019, the Band traveled to Virginia Beach and participate in the Norfolk NATO Festival Parade, honoring our military and winning top honors.
In 2020, the 88th edition of the Fitch Band was scheduled to represent Austintown in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which unfortunately was canceled due to the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.
In 2021, the Marching Band represented Fitch High School by performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and marched in the Winchester, VA Apple Blossom Parade.
In 2022, the baton of director was passed to Mr. Bill Klein, co-directed by Mr. Jeremy McClaine. The band will again travel to Virginia Beach to participate in the Norfolk NATO Festival Parade! Mr. Klein is a 2008 graduate of Fitch High School, where he was both Junior Drum Major and Senior Drum Major of the Marching Band. After high school, Klein attended the Dana School of Music at YSU as a pianist, and studied instrumental and choral music. In 2012, he was named the Director of Choirs position at Austintown Middle School. During his first three years in Austintown, he also acted as one of the Assistant Band Directors for the Fitch Marching Band. In 2015, Klein was promoted to Director of Choirs at Fitch and currently holds that position as well as Director of Bands. Klein holds a Masters Degree in Music from Kent State University and is currently a Doctoral Student at Kent State working towards a Ph.D. in Music Education.
Under Klein’s leadership, the style, tradition, and identity of the Fitch Band will not change. Along with Jeremy McClaine, they continue to educate students on the exact nature of a Military Band and expand on that model. They continue to look to the Army Field Band, The President’s Own Marine Band, and others for Fitch’s style. As educators, Klein and McClaine strive for excellence in the music ensembles I teach. I don’t accept anything less than each individual student's personal best. I am a flexible educator and will work with your children’s busy schedules as long as they put Band as one of their priorities. Though every young musician is at a different musical level, I expect them to do their best daily, attend rehearsals and performances, and strive to be the best member of the Fitch Band they can be.