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Article Published December 12, 2018
Taking Playing Together to the Next Level
Nathan Hughart

As an educator and a musician, Katie Trainer always strives to find new ways to bring people and music together. She started with music at a young age and soon decided to make a career of it.

In 2012, she began her first job out of college as the band director at North Branford High School (NBHS). Just three years later, North Branford joined the East Haven Co-op Marching Band, forming the East Haven High School/North Branford High School (EHHS/NBHS) Co-op Marching Band, and the program has gone on to win two consecutive regional championships.

Before the merge, Katie had already been working with East Haven High School (EHHS)’s wind sections. It wasn’t long before she and EHHS’s marching band director, Katie’s husband Matt Laudano, thought about merging the two programs.

“It just kind of dawned on us that I had kids who were interested in marching band, but to start up a marching band is a huge budgetary thing,” Katie says. “[East Haven] had this already really established, award-winning program, but they could use more kids.”

The administrators of both school systems liked the idea and it went forward, with North Branford sending a few kids every year. Katie says that the program is always trying to recruit new students.

“What’s cool about the program is they don’t need any experience. As long as they’re willing to be dedicated to the program, we’ll teach them everything,” Katie says.

Katie is the winds instructor for the marching band. She focuses on helping woodwinds players improve their techniques and learn the music. Katie says there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into a marching band like the EHHS/NBHS Co-op.

“We have a really awesome staff,” she says. “We have drill instructors, we have drum line instructors, we have pit instructors, color guard instructors, and visual instructors.”

Though the marching band’s season is mostly over, Katie says their work is never done. Already, they have to begin preparing concepts for next season.

“It’s really cool. It’s kind of like another family,” she says.

Bringing together a close-knit musical unit has been part of her focus as the band director at NBHS.

Soon after taking the position, the program decided to fundraise for new band uniforms. They switched from plain black and white to purple uniforms of a marching band style.

“It kind of gave us more credentials,” Katie says. “If we were [at a competition] or a football game somewhere out of North Branford, you could tell who we were.”

More than simple branding, Katie says that the new uniforms help to give the North Branford band a sense of identity.

“[The students] feel like they’re part of something,” she says. “It’s kind of like how if you’re a sports team you get your uniform for that and you feel like you’re a part of the team.”

Fostering a group identity, Katie says, helps the students succeed as a group.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re the first chair…or the last chair. They’re all important members,” she says. “I think a lot of students just feel comfortable here.”

This group mentality enables them to be comfortable making mistakes in front of one another so that they can learn, show their progression and be creative as a group.

“We all share this passion for music,” Katie says. “It’s an elective and they chose to take band. I think just having that bond brings them closer together.”

Music has long been a unifying force in Katie’s life.

“My parents were always super supportive,” Katie says. “They wanted to support me and my two sisters in whatever we wanted to do. Two of us are in music and my oldest sister is in the arts.”

As the youngest of her siblings, Katie had the benefit of her older sisters’ piano lessons from a young age. Soon, music was a big part of her life. She even switched to public school in 7th grade for the sake of Madison’s larger music program.

“My band teachers along the way were always my inspiration,” she says. “Once I switched to public school and saw that there’s all these other instruments…I started tinkering with everything.”

At the time, she was playing clarinet, but picked up the trumpet as well because it was her middle school band director’s instrument.

In high school, she became the youngest drum major Madison had seen at the time because of the faith of band director, Rich Fasano. From Madison, Katie went on to the Hartt School for her undergraduate in music education.