Trio of Talent Leads BHS Band Program
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided by Amy Payne & Curt Moss
When John Marque was a little boy, his mother, a music education major, noticed that her son had a talent for percussion.
“She encouraged me to study percussion early on in private lessons, and it was a very quick love for me,” Marque says. When it came time to start considering a career, the decision seemed rather obvious.
“Music was definitely a subject that I excelled in naturally,” says Marque, who was hired on at Brownsburg High School (BHS) eight years ago to teach percussion to sixth- through 12th-graders in jazz band, concert band, percussion ensemble and marching band. His position is unique in that he gets to instruct the sixth-grade percussionists and team teach at the middle schools, which means he sees these kids from sixth grade until they leave for college.
“I love seeing that growth in each student,” Marque says.
Tracy Runyon’s passion for band started in fifth grade when he picked up the alto saxophone. He credits his directors, Myron Snuffin and Joe Vrabec, along with his private teacher, Bob Cashner, for setting him on his path.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” he says.
When he reached high school, he practiced for hours and joined every summer and winter band program he could find, both locally and statewide. He immersed himself in all aspects of band because he enjoyed it all – marching band, jazz band, pep band and the guard.
Runyon, who just completed his 26th year working at BHS, says the most rewarding part of his job is when students realize their potential.
“When we reach the final destination of any performance, it’s fun to reflect on the journey,” Runyon says. “The light bulbs that I get to see come on grow bigger and stronger as we go along.”
Chris Kaflik began taking piano lessons starting at age 4. Though he was frustrated at first, once he improved, he started to enjoy playing. He took up band in sixth grade – something he admits he liked but didn’t love. When he initially joined marching band in high school, he had a more visceral reaction.
“I hated it at first and begged my mom to let me quit,” says Kaflik, who participated in football, wrestling, track and baseball. Marching band didn’t feel the same as a sport at first, but after a while, he appreciated what it offered.
“It was very physical but required an artistry and precision I hadn’t experienced in other sports,” says Kaflik, who played baritone, euphonium and trombone. The quest to become excellent at every detail became a driving force for improvement. He started to love what they were playing in each ensemble – marching band, concert band, jazz band and others.
“When music became a passion, that coupled with the love of teaching really pointed in one direction for me,” says Kaflik, who has been employed at BHS for six years. “I love the process of teaching the students from the ground level up to something excellent.”
Kaflik finds being a band director so rewarding because of the process itself. In marching band, for example, he sees students who have never attempted any of the required skills. After a few months of working together, they are doing it at some of the highest levels in the country.
“It’s not the performances or the competitions that I love,” Kaflik says. “I enjoy the nitty-gritty rehearsals. That’s where we see some of the best performances, even if it’s one repetition of a part that’s 20 seconds long.”
Anyone who has ever driven by a high school in the late afternoon or early evening can see that band takes a great deal of commitment from both students and directors.
“Being a band director isn’t a 9-to-5 job,” Kaflik says. “It’s a lifestyle.”
That commitment, however, pays big dividends.
“The students usually start playing an instrument when they’re 11 or 12,” Kaflik says. “The middle school directors have them playing at a high level within a couple years. By the time they’re 15, 16 or 17, we’re putting on performances that are breathtaking.”
Two years ago the BHS band was selected to participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to delay their participation by a year, and they marched in November of 2021. The experience was everything they hoped for and more.
“It was super unique, from the early morning rehearsals to the fast-paced nature of the parade during the morning,” Marque says. “The kids were absolute professionals and represented themselves very well.”
The streets of New York were filled with thousands and thousands of people. This special performance brought a sense of community to the band.
“We could really feel the Town of Brownsburg supporting the program as we prepared for that trip and while we were there,” Kaflik says. “Social media was blowing up in support for us.”
The parade itself was unforgettable.
“You really had to step back and enjoy the moment,” Runyon says. “The smiles were priceless.”
While marching in the parade was a dream come true, the Brownsburg band directors have other dreams too. For instance, they would love for the wind ensemble to perform at the Indiana Music Educators Association conference and other large festivals and conferences in the future.
“We would love to see the marching band travel to other large parades in the United States or even internationally,” Kaflik says.
Runyon would like to continue to build the love of music and band at Brownsburg, and see the program continue to sustain growth and success.
“I want to see the band continue to perform in national events, both on and off TV,” he says.
Marque hopes to provide an environment of positivity and hard work for his students that translates nicely to the real world.
Marque met his wife Natalie on stage when they both were entertaining at the Indy 500.
“We’ve been playing together ever since,” Marque says. The couple, who plays in a band called GrooveSmash, have two sons, Christian, who loves gymnastics and his dog Roy, and Julian, who shares a Christmas Eve birthday with his mom.
“Julian just started to walk a few months ago so life is certainly exciting these days,” Marque says.
Like Marque, Kaflik and his wife Noren also met through band. She was the color guard director at the school where he taught prior to BHS. She’s now an instructor for the BHS color guard. They have a son, Davison, who recently turned 1, and they have another boy on the way. The family has a miniature schnauzer named Rocky (after Rocky Balboa) and a border collie/husky mix named Rey (inspired by the character in “Star Wars”).
In his free time, Kaflik likes to run, golf, ski and cook. He and Noren also enjoy traveling, trying new restaurants and watching movies.
Runyon and his wife Kim have three grown children, Kaila, Braeton and Bret, all graduates of the BHS band program. They also have a dog name Adie. In his free time, Runyon likes to travel and spend time with his family.
Runyon is proud to announce that the Brownsburg band program received the 2021 Sudler Shield Award.
“This is the highest honor a school can receive in the marching activity,” Runyon says. “We’re honored to have been chosen for this prestigious award.”
Any band director will tell you that bands foster a tremendous sense of camaraderie among members and their families.
“Band is a special family,” Runyon says. “This is a place to belong for many students. It’s their niche.”
“In band, students rely on each other more so than any other activity I can think of,” Kaflik adds. “We don’t have a second-string player or alternate. Everybody in band is responsible for their own part and their spot. If they’re not in attendance or not refined on their parts, it has an impact on everybody else. When the band is strong, it’s because everybody worked together to get there.”