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Paoli High School

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Honoring A Champion

Laughlin to be honored as part of the ISSMA Anniversary Event
Courtesy Photo
Laughlin Former Band Director


The Pride of Paoli will travel to Indianapolis on Saturday to compete in the Indiana State School Music Association State Marching Band Finals. Paoli High School will have another special connection to this year’s event from former Director Bill Laughlin.

This year’s ISSMA State Finals marks the 50th year of the event. To commemorate, ISSMA is honoring the band directors with the most championship wins by inviting them to direct a special performance during the finals. 

Of these directors, Laughlin has the second-highest win total in the history of the ISSMA State Finals Championship with 12 wins.

“For me, and all of these directors, being invited to participate in this very special event one more time is simply fantastic! Anyone who has ever participated or even just attended one of these can see just how special our activity is. Then, to be recognized as one of the leaders in this activity and honored in this way, I am really humbled and honored to be a part of it! I have now taught music in the public schools for more than 40 years, and my overall memories are very positive and special,” said Laughlin.

The event was first held in 1973 at Shortridge High School and quickly became Indiana’s most well-known band competition. In 1984, the event was moved to the Hoosier Dome, which gave the bands an inside space to compete. After replacing the Hoosier Dome with Lucas Oil Stadium, the event has been held in Lucas Oil since 2008. 

Marching Band contests are split into four different classes based on the size of the schools. Of the classes, Pride of Paoli is in Class D. Laughlin will be conducting a performance of all the Class D finalists during the awards ceremony. The bands will perform The National Anthem and “Fanfare” composed by Purdue Director Matt Conoway. The bands will perform alongside the Purdue All-American Marching Band. 

Of the directors being recognized, Jay Webb from Avon has the most championship wins, with 15.

Laughlin has been teaching music for most of his life and is excited to be recognized for his hard work.

“When I started teaching in the fall of 1983, I had little idea what ‘State Finals Marching Band’ would look like. I simply wanted to be a good teacher who inspired students and the community to pursue excellence in what they do. Little did I know that we, and I do mean ‘we,’ would have so much success at this activity. All of the other directors who are participating as guest conductors this weekend will agree that this was a team effort over all those years. Yes, our name is at the top of the page as the leader, but just like all good coaches, we did this with an incredible team of assistants, wonderful students, very supportive school administrations, and, of course, a fantastic local community that supports and applauds successful programs that allow our students to shine,” said Laughlin.

Laughlin also gives acknowledgments to the others who have helped make Pride of Paoli what it is today.

“For me, here at Paoli, my wife Gayle was my partner through these years. Without her very high level of musicianship, we would not have been able to have those incredible woodwind sections all those years, and the special job she did with our fifth and sixth grade students, getting them started with the proper fundamentals and skills that allowed them to mature into those great musicians. Anne Wellman, Jeff Davis and Jolie Lindley made an incredible design team that would produce all the wonderful color guards we had year after year. Many schools were always trying to purchase Anne’s flags and trying to recruit them to come and help their programs. Marty Minton, Craig Kinzer and Chad Trinkle were such fine percussion writers, and teaching over the years really enabled us to be a powerhouse in that section,” said Laughlin.

Lastly, Laughlin shares his gratitude for his hard work and faith.

“Finally, I give credit to my faith!  The Lord has blessed me over my life, allowing me to live, create and work in an area that is dear to me, and has given me an incredible work ethic over those years that made all these things possible. Not only that but to share this life with Gayle, my wife and partner over these years is even better,” said Laughlin.

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Brian Fullington
Brian Fullington, Paolite News Editor
My name is Brian Fullington. I enjoy golf, tennis, and working for my evil overlord Mrs. Nichols.
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