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Birch Brings ‘Back in Black’ to Wheeling Park High School Band

photo by: Joselyn King

New Wheeling Park High School band director Jason Birch takes charge during the first day of band camp this week.

WHEELING – The Wheeling Park High School Patriots are all about red, white and blue, but this year the WPHS Band is going “Back In Black.”

The public should expect to hear some AC/DC tunes and other rock classics when the band takes the field this football season, said new band director Jason Birch. He hinted they also might be performing the rock-themed program in the upcoming Ohio Valley Band Showcase.

This week band members turned out for the opening of band camp wearing “PA/RK Back In Black” t-shirts complete with lightning bolt.

“This year we have a theme for the show. We’re doing an AC/DC rock show,” Birch said. “It should be fun, because it’s popular rock music.”

He said the show will also add some “neat visuals” to its performance. There will be more visual movement to give it some pop.

“I have a different approach to things,” Birch said. “It’s just going to be new concepts and new ideas.”

The WPHS grad knows how to play many instruments, but specializes in percussion.

“I play a mean trombone, too,” he said.

Music and education run in Birch’s blood.

Birch’s father Tim Birch – a retired Wheeling superintendent of operations and former Ohio County Board of Education member – is a drummer. The younger Birch said his love of music and percussion was inspired by his father, and later enhanced by his band teacher at the Warwood School, Joan Dayton.

His aunt, Debbie Birch, used to do the choreography for the WPHS spring musicals. Grandmother Janet Birch often did vocal coaching at the school. Grandfather Jesse Birch served as transportation director for Ohio County Schools, and mother Jan Birch retired as transportation secretary after working there 40 years.

And Birch’s wife, Jessica Broski-Birch, is the current principal at Bridge Street Middle School.

Jason Birch was initially hired at WPHS in 2002 to direct the percussion line.

From there he moved on to teaching stints at Braxton County (West Virginia) and Plum High School near Pittsburgh and the Krakow Jazz Academy in Poland.

He returned to the Ohio Valley and WPHS for the 2012-2013 school year as interim band director. After that stint, he was assigned as band director at the Warwood School, Triadelphia Middle School and Steenrod Elementary School.

Recent years saw him in Marshall County Schools as band director at Sherrard Middle School and percussion director at John Marshall High School.

Birch now succeeds David Alfred as WPHS band director.

He said while he has enjoyed teaching middle school students, he really does want to teach at the high school level.

“I feel like I relate and do really well with the high school students,” Birch said. “In middle school, you’re still in the infancy stage and building the foundations. In high school, you’re still doing that but you’re able to mold and bring the music to life more.”


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