FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — It’s 90 degrees outside and nearly 200 students are gathered on a black asphalt parking lot staring up at a man on a tower. Through a microphone, he shouts directions. The students hurry into position on the asphalt “field” and begin running through a series of movements.
Marching band season has begun.
Fort Mill, Nation Ford and Indian Land high school bands are each preparing for a season that will include creativity and some risk-taking, the bands’ directors said.
For Fort Mill Marching Band, a decision not to attend the Upper State and State competition is a break from the norm. The band has participated in the state competition for the last 40 years and won 23 state championships. It decided not to attend the two competitions this year to allow Fort Mill to attend the BOA Super Regional competitions in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Atlanta.
“It’s not as expensive as Grand Nationals, but we will experience a similar caliber of programs, and it’s great experience,” Director John Pruitt said. “It’s not a permanent decision. We’ll be right back to State next year.”
The band’s show this year, “Firefly,” is a musical depiction of children’s fascination with fireflies. Thirty-six trees will form a forest at the back of the field and a meadow area will be created near the front.
“Out of the box” thinking will inspire much of the creative side of Nation Ford High School’s marching band show this year, “The Ancient Art of War,” Director Martin Dickey said. The show is inspired by ancient Mediterranean styles of war. The music is original work commissioned by the band, though some pieces may be recognizable as inspired by the movie 300.
The band will put a percussion ensemble in the front and back of the field instead of marching a traditional drum line.
Spears, shields, and sabers will be used to depict war.
“If you’re going to be creative, you have to be willing to take risks,” Dickey said.
“We look for things that haven’t been done, and we’re still looking for a few more things. We don’t mind being creative and thinking outside the box.”
Leaning on tradition
Indian Land High School Marching Band has its eyes firmly on the State competition this year. The band did not qualify for the state competition last year but will this year, “come heck or high water,” Director Mathew Willis said.
The band’s show is a traditional show in some ways, including songs people will recognize, Willis said. But in other ways, the show is something that has never been seen before from the Indian Land band.
The theme, “Letters Home,” tells the story of a soldier in Vietnam from the perspective of his letters home to his mother.
Band members won’t wear their traditional uniforms this year. Instead, they’ll dress in all black, a nod to the somber theme.
“We’re really just trying to tell the story of the soldier but also that era in American history,” Willis said.
Songs include “Paint it Black,” by the Rolling Stones and “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong.
The show has an emotional theme and powerful visuals, but ultimately, Willis said, “the kids have got to play the music.”