Thomas County Central High School Marching Yellow Jacket Band swarmed, and its fellow contenders felt the sting in a recent performance contest. The band competed against seven other groups from Georgia, Florida, and Alabama in the Battle on the Border Marching Band Competition at Martin Stadium in Valdosta on Saturday, Oct. 22.
TCCHS received straight superior ratings for drum major, color guard, percussion and band. Additionally, it earned Best in Class AAA, Best Music Overall, the Jeff Lilly award for Most Entertaining Band, and first runner-up overall.
Quite an accomplishment on any day, TCCHS Band Director Joe Regina reveals the outcome’s especially commendable because his youth musicians also had the annual homecoming game, a mass band show with Thomas County Middle School students, and senior night the previous evening.
“Words cannot express how proud we are of our students for their efforts on Saturday,” he said. “We could tell very early on this season that we had a very special group of students marching this year.”
Members express similar enthusiasm for their results.
“I'm so proud and impressed by all our band members for putting their all into bringing home our awards,” sophomore clarinet player Bianca Torres, 15, said. “I know how hard everyone has worked, and I know how much we all deserve this win.”
Regina chose to have the marching band participate in this event for various reasons meant to boost the members’ confidence, expand their competitive experience, and encourage them to continue their hard work.
“Our band students work incredibly hard, and it's great to receive applause from friends and family on Friday nights at the game, but it's a whole different thing to perform for judges and against other bands from out of the area,” he said. “The audiences are more attentive, and the validation they receive from their scores really makes all their effort worthwhile.”
It’s also the first time in nearly three decades that TCCHS has participated in a half-time marching show competition. Freshman Ayvah Kelly said this contributed to members wanting to excel and wow the judges.
“... With this being our first competition in years, we wanted to make sure people know who the TCCHS marching band is,” she said.
Kelly, 14, a color guard member, said she’s thrilled with its rating.
“I'm so proud of the way all of the Dazzlers performed, and we all just kept high energy and performed so well,” she said. “That performance was probably our best performance we've done.”
Regina’s happy with the ratings and division finish, but the overall music and most entertaining awards pleased him most about his students’ results. Songs the TCCHS Marching Band performed included “Ode to Joy,” “Walking on Sunshine,” “What a Wonderful World” and “Mr. Brightside.”
“It's not easy to pick music that can demonstrate that we are proficient in all aspects of musicianship but also can entertain a crowd on Friday night,” he said.
The Most Entertaining Band award was a significant accolade for many members.
“... It just shows that tradition and real marching is still accepted and that we don't need fancy dance moves or wires and cords to be overall entertaining,” senior Ayden Webb, 18, said.
Sophomore trumpeter Julius Edwards, 15, said retaining the audience’s attention is key to a successful show.
“As a marching band, I believe that keeping the audience entertained is far more important than any dance or song we can do,” he said. “At the end of the day, if the audience didn't have a good time or enjoy it, then we failed.”
TCCHS Marching Band members have their enjoyable moments from the experience, too. For example, Webb’s favorite part was the moments just before TCCHS marched onto the competition field.
“It gave such an adrenaline rush that it made all the nerves about performing go away,” he said.
Edwards liked watching the other schools’ shows.
“Even though I know Thomas County's show backward and forwards, I never knew what would come next in these,” he said.
Junior Savana Manning, 16, a piccolo player and student leader, enjoyed anticipating – and hearing – the results with her friends.
“We were so nervous we were going to do bad since we have never competed before, but when we heard how well we did, we all jumped in the air and hugged each other,” she said.
Webb, a saxophonist, said the desire to win and standout leadership from Regina, assistant director Kristen Swan, and student leadership helped propel TCCHS to great heights.
“Without good leadership, very little can be accomplished, and that definitely holds true for this group,” he said. “Another thing that allowed us to do well is because the entire band wanted this, not just the leadership and directors … .”
Edwards said knowing what to work on pushed the band to improve as it prepared for the big day.
“The reason that I try and work hard is because I know I have mistakes to fix, things to make better,” he said. “Just knowing that the show isn't perfect drives me. Knowing what to change in order to improve the show makes you get better.”
And a little peer support and camaraderie goes a long way, Torres adds.
“I know all the exhausting practices together and [the] encouraging atmosphere between band members lead us to an amazing performance,” she said.
Members already look toward future achievements, too.
“This competition is only the beginning of our band's success, and I'm beyond excited to see what we'll bring home from future competitions,” Torres said.
Manning expressed pride in her band’s amazing accomplishments, thanks for the opportunity, and heartfelt determination to continue improving.
“These results inspire me to continue to work hard because we have been working on this show for so long, and it shows that hard work pays off,” she said. “We are so thankful that our band directors provided this opportunity to us and for the faith and support they have for us. This experience put a sense of pride in all of us band members and is a memory we will never forget.”