The Reel Deal


(from left to right) Seniors Ryan Lane, Courtney Labritz, and Lauren Tucci

Nicole Pampena, Editor-in-Chief

The average high school music program may have some type of archive with decades-old recordings, but how many have access to the technology to play all those tapes and records? Tucked away in the back of the rotunda EV storage room sat an undiscovered and unappreciated Reel-to-Reel Tape Player that seniors Ryan Lane, Courtney Labritz, and Lauren Tucci stumbled across.

Lane, a percussionist in Marching Band and Wind Ensemble, elaborates, “It was a stroke of luck, really. We originally found [the tapes] in the band room. They’ve been there who knows how long…There were maybe about eighty.” Yet despite the “stacks and stacks” of tapes as described, all had remained not played, most likely since the seventies, the decade most of them date back to. Fortunately, the uncovering of the tape player meant the uncovering of a piece of North Hills history. The labels on the boxers holding the tapes reveal the bands playing to be the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Bands from the seventies, formerly known as the Symphony and Stage Bands directed by Warren S. Mercer, Jr.

Although playing the tapes is fairly straightforward after getting the hang of it, the students could not have restored the player to its full glory without the help of Mr. Kaufman, the Sound and Light Technician at the high school. “Thread the tape through the spindles, the press play,” Labritz, a trumpet player in Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Band, explains simply, “the balance has taken care of itself, the speed is corrected. Some of the tapes are out of tune; fortunately we have pitch control that can fix that.” In terms of rewinding, the process is similar to that for VHS and cassette tapes: it requires patience. “There’s no easy way of doing it.” Lane jokes. Reaching the end of a recording means a few minutes of waiting to return back to the beginning.

Also, like any other technology containing recorded material, they’re reusable. “We might record over some with the current band,” Lane reveals, “The nice thing about these is you can keep recording over them.” In addition to that, the students have spoken to band director Mr. Lavelle about contemporarily preserving this North Hills music history. “He said if we’re that passionate about it, we can try and transfer the tapes to digital.” Labritz beams.

But for now, the Reel-to-Reel Tape Player is expected to be moved into the band room, where every musician can enjoy the privilege of listening to a piece of our school’s past. In the words of percussionist Lauren Tucci, “It’s the reel deal!”