Original members of the RCTS Marching Band gather for a group photo in the school's auditorium in the late 1950s. Band director, Mr. Robert Shorter, (in suit) is first person from left in the first row.
Prior to 1957, RCTS did not have a marching band. Mr. Emerson directed the school’s concert band. The historic RCTS Marching Band was initiated in 1956, thirty-seven years after the School opened, under the innovative leadership of Mr. Robert E. Shorter. Its students’ musical interests and talents were showcased in its choirs and concert band. In 1957, Robert Shorter was among the young innovative instructors to join the RCTS faculty. As RCTS’ music and Social Studies instructor, he immediately began to organize a marching band. The idea of a marching band generated excitement in the community and parents and school officials began raising funds to purchase instruments and to support band activities. Organizing sessions were held in the school’s auditorium and parents joined in with much anticipation about the dynamic band that would emerge.
The school’s PTA raised money to purchase band instruments and uniforms for the band. During one fundraiser, Ernest Magby, A. T.Shumpert, Longshore, B. A. Outland, Katherine Jordan , Ted Bell, Bob Royston,George Poole, Ida Shaw, Herman Shaw, Katherine Robinson, Lillie Mae Thornton, George McCrary, Rev. Robert Lee Heflin, Ruby Pinkston, Veal, Mr. And Mrs. Booker Williams, Mrs. Tavie Clark, Mr. And Mrs.John L. Satterwhite, Charles Kidd, E. L.Autry, Dunn Chevrolet Co., and Fincher Motor Co. contributed money. Donations ranged from $1.00 to $25.50. Reverend Robert L. Heflin gave $25.00, the highest individual amount. Evelyn Smedley’s 6th grade class gave $12.00.
The Band’s initial dress consisted of white pants and shirts, buck shoes, and a maroon tie. Later the Band was outfitted with uniforms that included maroon coats, white pants with gold trim. Its dynamic drum majors included Aaron Winston, Johnnie Phillips, and Johnny Williams. Among its many talented majorettes were Barbara Jones, Barbara Longshore, Sandra Bussey, RubyWatts, Faye Watkins, Mary Stitt, Ida Watts, Annette Heflin, Cynthia Winston,Gerald Houston, Brenda Walker, Marilyn Garrett, Johnnie Pate and many others.
Although the various local, regional and stateband competitions were exciting, nothing exceeded the joy that came with the band’s participation in the annual Christmas parade that traveled on Main Street through the city of Roanoke. The presence of the RCTS Band brought crisp steps, dynamic music, and the energy of drum majors and majorettes under the direction of Robert Shorter as he walked beside the Band with pride in his white bandmaster uniform.