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Originally published Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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Old band uniforms march on

High school music group's fundraising idea of turning old band uniforms into commemorative pillows hits a high note with community.

Akron Beacon Journal

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HUDSON, Ohio — After the Hudson High School Music Association emptied its uniform fund of $80,000 to purchase new outfits for the swing marching band, the group of parents and alumni faced two immediate questions:

How to start refilling the fund, and what to do with some 450 old band uniforms.

The answer to both questions is now decorating sofas, chairs and beds throughout Hudson, Ohio, and beyond.

Two band moms have been turning the 20-year-old uniforms into commemorative pillows.

Using the distinct fashion elements of the blue and white attire, Ive Sattelberg and Chris Searson have been producing four styles of pillows using the bib and braiding, the "Hudson" script on the cape, a jacket lapel and pocket handkerchief, and a jacket lapel with a blue bow tie.

The backs of the 14-inch square pillows are made from the pants to take advantage of the shiny seam strips. The pillows also use the decorative buttons, epaulets and collars featuring an embroidered "#1".

The idea for the pillows came after the music association made and presented one to retiring band director Mark Zartman last year. The pillow was such a hit, new band director Bev O'Connor asked if the moms could make pillows for the 57 graduating band seniors.

The fundraising idea was a natural extension. To date, more than 200 pillows have been sold for $35 each. The price will jump to $40 when football season begins Aug. 24 — the date the band debuts their new uniforms at the new high school stadium.

"We've been sewing nonstop," Sattelberg said.

A uniform company offered to make the pillows, but the Hudson music association wasn't happy with the quality. The uniforms hadn't been cleaned first, and the pillows were stuffed with uniform pieces, making them heavy and lumpy.

When Sattelberg and Searson took over, they opted for a polyester form filler and cleaned every uniform to eradicate smells and stains.

Sally Schwieterman, HHSMA's vice president of fundraising, said it has been fun reading the notes that come with the orders.

"Parents often put in a little personal note, and some share memories," she said.

One mom wanted a pillow to remind her of her late son, who had been in the band. Another pillow was purchased by an alumnus who played in the band in 1992 — the first year the old uniforms were worn.

The band was much bigger back then, at its peak numbering about 340. This year's band includes 224 musicians, still making it one of the largest marching bands in the area.

And that number is on the rise again because of a population boom at the middle school level. Although the Hudson music association purchased 250 uniforms, the group knows it will need more money for additional uniforms next year.

"Most people think the schools buy the uniforms and music and instruments (for the band, choir and orchestra), but they do not," said Margaret Washko, HHSMA's vice president of band. "We do."

The money has been raised over the years doing a variety of activities, from blood drives to soliciting businesses to writing grants.

Putting in the extra time to make and sell the pillows is above and beyond the call of duty, band director O'Connor said.

"These ladies are amazing," she said. "They put in so much work."

Pillows can be ordered at www.hudsonmusic.org.

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