The Tullahoma High School Marching Band ended its competition season with yet another grand championship, once again proving the band’s prowess on the field with their halftime show titled “Master of Silence.”
At its most recent competition on Sept. 29, the Columbia Invitational Marching Contest, the band won top honors in several categories, including the Phillip Brown Best Music Award, First Place in Gold Class (5A) and Large Division Grand Champion.
The band also received a third place finish for its color guard at the Columbia competition, according to Director Justin Scott.
Earlier in September, the band also took its first competition by storm, claiming first place finishes for both the 5A band and the color guard and yet another large band sweepstakes award at the Sept. 15 Eagle Invitational Contest in Clarksville.
And as a special treat to celebrate the band’s success, the group received a Tullahoma Police escort back into town from Bedford County city limits, a first for the program, according to Scott.
‘A lot of pride’
According to band captain Ethan Sherrer, taking home all the awards was the cherry on top of a fantastic competition season, though not the most important part of competing.
“These trophies are just the tip of the iceberg,” Ethan said of the awards, which were collected on the podium used by the directors Saturday night. “There’s so much stuff that’s underneath [the awards] that makes it worthwhile.”
The trophies are always nice, he said, but more important than the awards themselves is the acknowledgement by the band community that the work they’ve put into the show this year was worth the effort.
“At the end of the day it’s another piece of plastic to add to the shelves,” he said, “but more than that it’s just a reminder of the hard work we’ve put in.”
The band’s work ethic is also highlighted in their awards, he said.
“This band program is filled with so much work ethic and the whole ‘striving to do what’s best’ kind of mentality,” Ethan said.
On Saturday night, still coming down from the high of winning, Ethan could only say that he had “a lot of pride” in both himself and his peers for “all the work we’ve done.”
“Tonight was truly exceptional,” he said of the performance the band put on in Columbia. “I think I can speak on behalf of the entire band that [tonight’s run] was a truly exceptional show run.”
Ethan repeated that he was “very excited” and “very happy” with how the group’s competition season ended, as well as how much pride he had in his bandmates.
“There’s pride – a lot of pride – in all my peers and everyone in this program and all the work we’ve done,” he said.
Scott echoed those sentiments, saying he and Assistant Director Lisa Burden were “just so proud of these kids.”
“They worked so hard this season,” Scott said. “We always teach our kids it’s not always about the placement, about the trophies, but it’s always a nice cherry on top of the cake when that does come home, obviously.”
Even more impressive than the number of trophies the students brought home, Scott said, was how the group has impressed audiences along the way – not only at competitions.
“They’ve won over all the audiences everywhere we’ve gone, and to me that’s even more important than any kind of trophy we could get,” he said.
The group is always “well-loved” no matter where they travel, he said, and he constantly hears about how the students impress people with their sense of pride.
“They win over the hearts of the audience,” he said.
Not only did the band take top honors at both of its competitions this season, but the group also experienced the full college football atmosphere when the students performed at the Sewanee Family Weekend on Sept. 22.
According to Scott, the band hasn’t been up to Sewanee since about 2000, when former directors Stephen and Marion Coleman brought the band up for the same weekend.
Despite having a football team, the University of the South doesn’t have a marching band to attend its football games, so the school invites local area marching bands to come and perform for the crowd on occasion.
According to Scott, this Sewanee performance replaced one of the traditional band competitions, and the students used the experience to practice their halftime show just as they do in Wilkins Stadium for the Wildcats football team.
“For them (the students) it was like a normal game,” Scott said. “We played pep tunes in the stands (and) we did our halftime show. We were the band cheering on their football team. It was neat.”
The band was well-received at Sewanee as well, according to Scott.
“They thought we were a college band,” he said.
The group even confounded some of the coaches, according to Scott.
“A couple of the coaches would stop and turn around and look at us, because they’re just not used to hearing us,” Scott said with a laugh. “But it was fun; the kids had a great time.”
The group was well-prepared for the performance, Scott said, with shortened versions of their pep tunes at the ready to comply with NCAA rules and regulations.
“We actually took some time to create what we called ‘shorties’ of some of our current tunes, because there’s only specific, small chunks of time when you can play,” he said.
The group even practiced at home with an altered practice field, Scott added.
“College hashes are different than the high school hashes (on the field), so we actually … painted the college hashes to show them, ‘this is what you’re going to see,’” he said.
Now that the competition season is over, the band will only be performing the halftime show for fun at football games remaining in the Wildcats football season.
The band is also gearing up for its March-A-Thon, an annual fundraiser that sees the band play in several neighborhoods and at certain businesses in town.
Over the past several years, the group has played in numerous neighborhoods for special friends, including Director of Schools Dan Lawson and former band directors Max Weaver and Stephen and Marion Coleman.
The band takes pledges from community members and businesses alike, playing certain pep tunes that may be requested by either the directors or those who donate.
Individuals may donate and request to have certain pep tunes or college fight songs in their yards or in the yards of football rivals.
This year’s slate of neighborhood performances include Tara Estates and the Bragg Circle/Greenwood Avenue/Sharondale Drive area on the West side of town. Business visits include Northgate Mall, Starbucks and Ascend Federal Credit Union, with a final stop at Verizon, where the band will perform for local first responders, according to Public Relations Coordinator Stephanie Lawson.
For donation information or other questions about the March-A-Thon, contact either Director Justin Scott at email@example.com or Assistant Director Lisa Burden at firstname.lastname@example.org, or seek out any band student.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.