HANNIBAL | From hot summer rehearsals to the cold of winter, members of the Hannibal High School Pirate Pride Bands have been giving extra effort to deliver their best performances — and their list of accolades reflects their perseverance.
HHS students competed in four marching band competitions this year in Macon, Lafayette, Washington and Fayette. The musicians practiced with several weeks during the summer, a four-hour Saturday session, Thursday evening rehearsals and before class sessions. The band's collection of accolades is piling up, and the students and their directors aren't slowing down with several members qualifying for the Honorable Mention Band, District Band and District Jazz Band.
“They're putting in the hard work, and it's paying off,” Band Director Jeff Duffy said, stressing the students have been “creating that culture of a highly successful band program.”
The first marching band competition was at Macon High High School, and Duffy said the band received first place in its division, Outstanding General Effect, Outstanding Marching and first place in the 4A Field Show. Next, the band traveled to Lafayette High School — where it finished seventh in finals — and earned fifth place in the preliminary division in Washington.
Fellow Band Director Debbie Higbee-Roberts said all the students “had to work for all of it” with each rehearsal and performance leading up to the season's final competition at Central Methodist University in Fayette. The students garnered a series of awards: first place in the field show competition, Outstanding Drum Major, second place as a band and Outstanding Color Guard during the parade section of the competition.
“We always tell the kids that band is the epitome of a team sport,” Duffy said. “There's no one who gets to be on the bench, no one is a second string or junior varsity — everyone in band has to contribute equally to the performance and step up. So it's really cool that you can't just go along with the crowd, everyone has to put in the work.”
Fellow Band Director Mike Fuller said the freshmen were encouraged throughout hot summer practices by upperclassmen who encouraged them and helped them develop a good work ethic.
“The upperclassmen are telling them 'just wait' — last year was their first time in a long time winning first place,” Fuller said. “The upperclassmen this year were like 'it's worth it — keep going, keep going.' It was kind of neat seeing them coach the younger ones who had not been through the hard work.” Senior Drum Major Gavin Jones witnessed the band's growth from those early practices throughout the season.
“The team building and the band feeling like a family, it really gets everyone up in their spirits,” Jones said. “I feel like it clearly shows at the end, all the hard work we put in.”
During the final competition at CMU, Jones said it was rewarding to see the band win honors, including Outstanding Drum Major.
“It was a very fantastic feeling,” Jones said.
Fuller said each student auditioning for the All-District Band in November practices a challenging musical selection to perform for audition — the districts rank each performance to select members for the top honor of all-district band, while other high-ranking musicians are named to the Honorable Mention Band. Members of the All-District Band then try out for the All-State Band, and senior Jacob Bross earned a spot in that band three years along with a seat in the District Band for percussion.
Members of the All-District Jazz Band are Jacob Bross, drums; Tanner Scholes, trumpet; Devin Maddox, alto saxophone; Gavin Jones, trombone; and Trevor Scholes, alternate for baritone saxophone. The Honorable Mention Band includes: Jenna Ludsky, clarinet; Matthias Blaylock, French horn, Will Dexheimer, French horn; and Tanner Scholes, trumpet.
Fuller said the students in the Honor Bands were set to gather in the first weekend of January, working with a guest clinician throughout the day — musicians from four or five schools are often practicing together in one section.
“So you're learning to play with each other and learning to play some pretty challenging music in a concert for all the parents at night,” Fuller said. “But unfortunately this year, it was iced and snowed out.”
The event isn't rescheduled because there are so many schools involved, but Fuller said the students gained valuable experience and the opportunity to advance to All-State competition.
“It's a great thing, not only for them to show their hard work and ability, but it also gives them opportunities to meet other students from other schools,” Fuller said. “Usually when they're auditioning, they're able to talk to other students and get to know other students, which is great.”