Hannibal High School Pirate Pride Marching Band hits high notes with competition accolades

“We got this bread,” said ninth grade percussionist Gene Stewart after morning marching band practice at Hannibal High School's Porter Stadium.

From the drumline to every section of the Hannibal High School Pirate Pride Marching Band, “the bread” came back to Hannibal in the form of first place awards and other accolades during a fast-paced competitive season.

The drumline received a First Place overall award at Quincy High School, and the entire band received an accolade that hadn't reached the band room trophy shelves for about 20 years — First Place in the Field Show category — on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Central Methodist University Band Day. Hannibal Pirate Pride Marching Band members practiced on evenings, worked hard during summer camp and gathered to practice before the start of school on each scheduled day. Amid rising numbers for the band over the past few years, the color guard has tripled in size with the addition of a dedicated color guard class.

Band members, family members and band directors shared in the jubilation of accomplishments during competitions. Assistant Band Director Mike Fuller said supportive parents cheered along with the band members and assisted with unloading trailers, providing meals and transporting props on and off the field.

“The last two to three years, the kids have been working really hard, but they hadn't quite in the judges' eyes gotten the recognition they deserved,” Fuller said. “To see them, especially at Central Methodist this year, get First Place — some of them didn't even know how to act. It was cool to see.”

“It's been a fun season —it's been a long season — but it's been a fun one,” said Department Chair Debbie Higbee-Roberts. “The kids have worked really, really hard. I think that's probably the most rewarding part of it is just to see their faces and their excitement. Even though they're tired, they now see what hard work will do. ... What they put into it is what they'll get out of it.”

Assistant Band Director Jeff Duffy said the students performed an all-original show called “War Dance,” from Fannin Musical Productions, which evokes the ancient Haka dance of the Maori people from New Zealand, with band members using “rhythmic percussion and ritualistic body movements throughout the show,” he said.

He said the drum section increased in size, and percussionists drilled down on their musical contributions with spirit.

“They met the challenge and really came together nicely at the end,” Duffy said.

Fuller agreed, saying the students spent two extra weeks over the summer working ahead on their music. Higbee-Roberts said the color guard also put in two extra weeks of practice for their routine.

Administration members helped the band by creating a separate color guard class — musicians in the band took on those roles in past years. Fuller said the color guard offers more students a chance to be part of the overall musical experience, even if they haven't yet picked up a musical instrument.

Sophomore Molly Large said she enjoyed the experience during her first year in the Color Guard, remembering the rigor of the summer camp sessions as everyone learned their parts in the field show. Her first competition offered the chance to make “lots of new friends” in a challenging environment.

“At first, it's really nerve-wracking because you think, 'what if I mess up?'” she said. “But when you know your show, it's really exhilarating when you're performing it live in front of a whole bunch of people. And then there's moments where you hit a climax point, and the crowd just cheers, and it's really nice and it motivates you to continue your show.”

Freshman Alex Farr plays trombone, and he said “it's been a long journey” going from not knowing marching skills to being an integral part of an award-winning performance.

“Just being in the band period is awesome, but probably winning that first place trophy at one of our competitions — with my first year — that was insanely crazy,” he said. He said he looks forward to taking on more of a leadership role in the years ahead and encouraging more people to join the band.

Senior Nicholas Tomkins said he enjoyed sharing expertise with new band members as he transitioned from mallet percussion to the bass drum and on to the tenor drum. And he said the experience of winning reflected a goal shared by everyone in the band.

“Through band camps, and in class, drumline has always wanted to get first place, and as a band, we always wanted to get first place — and we got both this year,” he said. “It's really awesome, we would joke around in the drumline and say 'let's get this bread,' and that was like, let's win this thing.”

Fellow senior and Drum Major Makenzie Prenger saw the growth throughout the year, with additional camps, practice and a shared level of dedication from band members and from her two fellow drum majors.

“It's really cool to get to see how everything comes into play and how all the different sections work together as a whole,” she said. “For me, it's been fun to get to conduct and help out. It's been great.”

Higbee-Roberts agreed with Fuller's observation that the band has undergone a “culture change,” with each member focusing on team goal to achieve success.

“I'm very proud of these kids. They've come a long way,” she said. “I'm very happy for the seniors. They've been working hard for a long time, so this is well-deserved for them and their class.”

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com