When Helen and Gilbert Aylsworth arrived in French Lick in 1938, there was no Springs Valley High School. The Blackhawks were still twenty years in the future. There was no band program at French Lick High School, so the superintendent had summoned the Aylsworth’s from Hazard High School in Kentucky. So began the seventy year odyssey and three generations of music educators in the “Valley”.
In 1969, John Aylsworth, Gilbert’s son, took over marching band program. Nine years later, he brought the first state championship to Springs Valley High School. He was director until 1995. Under his direction, the Brigade made 16 state finals appearances.
The third generation of the Blackhawk Brigade began in 2001 as Luke Aylsworth, John’s son, took over the reins of the program. That year, the program had 35 students. The band failed to advance to regional in 2001 and 2002. In 2003 with a band of 70 students, Springs Valley made their first regional appearance since the 1998 season.
In 2006, Luke led the Brigade back to state finals following a 12 year drought. The Brigade has now been back each season following (2006-2011). The Brigade has now made six consecutive appearances to state finals, the first time it’s been done in the history of the Brigade. In addition, in 2010 the Brigade captured the ISSMA Class Championship. This makes John and Luke Aylsworth the only father and son to each win a state marching band championship in ISSMA history.
The band department at Springs Valley has nearly 300 students involved in the program. The high school, junior high, and 6th grade band classes meet five times a week. The fifth band classes meet three times a week. Each student pays a yearly $35 fee to rent an instrument. Springs Valley is one of the only school in the country to purchase instruments and rent them to students. This is done so all student can participate in band. This is a legacy left behind by Gilbert Aylsworth.