The History of the Durham Marching Band

Behind the Performers

The navy blue uniforms of the Durham marching bands have certainly changed over the years, but the pride and enthusiasm of the band members never have. For generations, local girls have been marching into the hearts of the community and making life-long friends along the way. 


The all-girls Durham High School Bugle Band was first seen at the Remembrance Day ceremonies in 1949. The band was formed by the high school music teacher Mr. John A. Jarratt and quickly became a dedicated, tight-knit group. Through commitment and hard work, they successfully competed in both provincial and national band festivals, as well as proudly represented the Town of Durham in special events and parades throughout Ontario.


In 1954, the band became known as the Durham District High School Trumpet Band and continued their success with an impressive number of awards including a five-year-run as both Provincial and National Champions from 1955 to 1959. Mr. Jarratt continued as Band Leader until the fall of 1960. Then, Mr. Lambertus Verweel and Me. David Baxter provided continued leadership and support until the reorganization of the local schools in 1968, which meant the closing of the high school in Durham. 


Losing the town high school might have meant losing the band if it weren't for Mr. & Mrs. Bill and Iris Kennedy and a small group of former members who worked together to form the Durham Girls Drum & Bugle Corps. Bill and his son Kris Kennedy even traveled with the band, driving and carting the equipment and Iris took on bookings and advertising. The band was also very fortunate to have 'Uncle' Wilmer Vollett as their beloved bus driver for many years as they traveled and performed all over Ontario and parts of the US.


Under the direction of Mrs. Gayle Magwood, the Durham Girls took on a full schedule of parades, concerts, and competitions and continued their winning ways becoming Provincial and National Drum Corps Champions. With Gayle at the helm and a lot of support from local businesses, service clubs and individuals, the drum corps continued marching and competing successfully until 1984. 


Then in 2012, Durham planned a Homecoming celebration and a fundraising project to bring the Scout House Band and the Fergus Pipe Band to town, which brought a lot of former band members together. With some borrowed instruments and a lot of enthusiasm, a group of alumni headed by Marilyn Dickson formed the Durham Girls Reunion Band. Their goal was to perform in the Homecoming parade, so practices were held, more former members were recruited, and the Durham Girls marched again. 


After Homecoming, the Reunion Band continued to perform locally, enthusiasm remained high, and the decision was made to form the Durham Girls Alumni Band. With support and partnership with the Municipality of West Grey, a Trillium Grant was received allowing the band to acquire needed equipment and continue performing.


In June 2018, the Durham Marching Band was officially created in an effort to include all genders in the band. The band has now attracted many new members of all ages and continues to proudly represent its community in parades and concerts throughout the region, all year round. 


Since the beginning, the Durham bands have meant many things to its members and loyal supporters... For some it's about the music, for others it's about friendships made while practicing and performing and the feeling of belonging that comes while working as a group. For all former and present members, there's a special bond between us all. For us, it's about honouring our past and marching together into the future! We are the Durham Marching Band!