Decatur High band receives high marks at Low Country InvitationalThe Decatur High School band takes a group photo at the Low Country Invitational in South Carolina. Photo provided by Ira Jenkins.
By David McFarland, contributor
Decatur, GA — The Decatur High School Marching Band recently took its talents on tour.
The marching band competed in the Low Country Invitational at Wando High School near Charleston, S.C. on Sept. 30.
“Our band competed against 16 of the best high school marching bands in the state of South Carolina,” DHS Band Director Ira Jenkins said. “With an awesome first full performance of their production this season, our band impressed the judges and ranked in the top five in every category of the competition. The Decatur Marching Band ended up second in their division and second in the entire competition.”
According to Senior and drums major Miles Floyd explained how the competitions work.
“A band competition is not about competing against other bands, but competition against yourself and seeing how well you can perform,” Floyd said. “Band competitions are one of the ways that bands get to meet and see what other bands look like and reflect how we as a band can be better.”
Each band performs a 6-10 minute show and is evaluated by judges, who evaluate things like individual and ensemble performance, as well as the band’s drum majors, color guard and percussion section.
They are graded on two criteria: Olympic, focusing on the band as a whole, and Caption, focusing on specific components such as the music or designs displayed by the marchers.
To score well, it takes an impressive display of synchronization and skill from every member of the band. Jenkins was full of pride for his students and described how their dedication made such success possible.
“Our students have put in hours of work and have been dedicated to our rehearsal schedule,” Jenkins said. “The marching band staff and parent volunteers have also worked tirelessly to teach the students and help make this production come to life.”
Senior Nate Cohen echoed that sentiment.
“Our keys to success were just how much we practice everything and making sure that we drilled everything,” Cohen said. “Another thing that helped was everyone is buying in this year, and we all want to be very good. Doing well means a lot because It gives us a sense of pride in ourselves and shows that we can do really well in future competitions.”
For Floyd, the character of the band was key.
“Our marching band is full of students and staff with a common goal of creating a performance art to the best of everyone’s ability,” Floyd said. “I see leaders everywhere in almost every single member of our band. This growth of character has taken our band farther than I think a lot of students thought it could. The connection and love of the band really affect the work ethic and how successful the band is vs how successful the band can be.”
Along with the group recognition, Floyd and his fellow drum major Lucy Johnson received special recognition in the form of the Most Outstanding Drums Major award for their division. The role of the drum major is a multi-faceted one.
“What most non-band people see is us just waving our arms in front of the band on the field and the performance aspect of cueing and conducting,” Floyd said. “When there are multiple drum majors on the field like us, we have to make sure our hands are literally moving at the exact same time with no buffer. We have to take into account where people are on the field so that we can adjust our time and tempo to match the delay that sound has when it travels.”
“Even just a small difference between the drum majors or the drum line can create a riff that can destroy a performance or a show, so it is important to work these almost mental connections and be able to read each other during a performance,” Floyd added.
This has been made much easier thanks to the deep connection between Floyd and Johnson.
“I have a great friendship with Lucy that allows us to collaborate and be honest with each other so that we can perform better,” Floyd said. “We understand our strengths and weaknesses, so we know where to help each other and the band. I am really lucky that I have such a close friend and leader to work with, and I think this positive relationship that has been growing for the past few years has really strengthened our connection as leaders and helped the band.”
This was the furthest current group of band students has had to travel for a competition, which made the experience more special.
“My favorite part was honestly just playing our show and seeing the crowd’s reaction to it,” said Cohen.
Jenkins, meanwhile, highlighted “seeing the students learn as they watched other bands,” as his favorite part.
“It is one of the few ways that I get to see other bands perform and see their processes,” Floyd said. “I like to see how similar and different we are compared to different bands.”
Along with its performance at every home DHS football game, the Marching Band will be back in action twice more, with two major competitions to go at Buford High School on Oct. 21 and at Milton High School on Nov. 4. Floyd sees this competition as the foundation for a successful season.
“Starting off on a strong foot and well for this season gives people the confidence to continue doing well,” Floyd said. “This confidence I hope continues to be demonstrated and people understand how their hardwood has coincided with their success and they should be proud of their hard work.”
Cohen, meanwhile, is excited for more chances to exhibit Decatur’s quality.
“I would say our goals first and foremost are to improve at every competition and make sure that we are proud of our work,” Cohen said. “It would also be nice to win some caption trophies but the main thing is seeing steady improvement.”
Jenkins agrees. The Band’s priority is to build off its success in Charleston to “tweak and perfect our production,” as the season progresses.
Floyd summed up the next steps.
“The goals for the remaining competition are the same as every competition: focus on what needs work, do the work, and then perform the best that we can,” Floyd said.
Want Decaturish delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our free newsletter by clicking here.
If you appreciate our work on this story, please become a paying supporter. For as little as $6 a month, you can help us keep you in the loop about your community.