, Port Arthur, Texas

October 22, 2012

PNG Band Alumni to celebrate 76 years of tradition

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES — Port Neches-Groves Band Alumni are ready to celebrate homecoming and 76 years of tradition.

The group will begin their celebration with a homecoming parade on Monday, Oct. 29, followed later in the week by a pregame mixer and a third quarter performance of the fight song Cherokee on Friday, Nov. 2 and a reunion set for Saturday, Nov. 2.

The idea of getting the band back together started with U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Michael Whitney, a 1986 PN-G graduate, while stationed in Afghanistan last year.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for years and could never find anyone else interested in helping,” Whitney said. “I posted the idea on Facebook and Tammy (McCelvey) responded right off. She said she had wanted to do this for years also.”

Whitney returned home last November and from there the idea grew. There were meetings, a committee was formed and the group began to practice. As of this week the Facebook page had a total of about  566 members.

McCelvey said about 75 people are signed up to play their instruments during the event. McCelvey played trumpet in the PN-G band from 1987 to 1991.

“I can’t wait to get in front of the crowd. You think about it every time you hear them play Cherokee, you just wish you could play it one more time,” McCelvey said.

She said some alumni were worried they had forgotten how to play their instruments but after a few practices they sound great.

The upcoming event will be attended by alumni from many different eras and from across the U.S. and beyond. McCelvey said a former foreign exchange student will fly in from Norway to be part of the celebration.

The event means a lot to the people who share the bond of music. The many hours of practice, the self-discipline required to perform at one’s very best before crowds of thousands of spectators. There is a special camaraderie among the alumni. Whitney, who has been in the Air Force for 26 years, credits his career success to the guidance of his former band directors Carl Wadenphul and Sammy Almany.

“I never would have made it 26 years in the military or be where I am today without them,” he said. “They were good mentors, extremely tough on us. I still remember basic training. I had this drill instructor yelling at me and I was laughing. He asked me if I was intimidated and I said no, you should have seen my last band directors.”

During the third quarter performance on Friday, the group will begin at the scoreboard at the end of the stands, McCelvey said. The reasoning is that those folks don’t always get to hear the performance. From there the group will work their way down the track.

The performance will be extra special to Whitney and his wife, Coyth, a 1991 graduate of PNG. Their daughter, Michaela, is an Indianette at the high school.

“It’s been a long time since we were on the field with that big of a crowd,” he said. “Our daughter will be coming off the track when we go on and she’ll be able to see her parents play at her homecoming.”

Whitney will perform with his saxophone and his wife will play her marching instrument, a mellophone.

The alumni group is also selling T-shirts and decals and all proceeds from the sales will go to a PNG Band Alumni Memorial Scholarship, he said.

The PNG Band Alumni Reunion is open to all former band members, drum majors, twirlers, silks, band directors and twirler/silks sponsors. For more information about the reunion or performing can visit the, log-on to the Facebook page or e-mail