YOU CAN hear them before you see them. Instruments, performing in perfect unison, send an infectious sound out into the air that alerts all who hear it that the evening’s events are about to begin.
Since late spring, the Tullahoma High School (THS) Band has been meticulously planning and preparing for what will become a soundtrack of sorts for the celebrated experience that is known as “Friday night lights.”
For the THS director of bands, Justin Scott, performing for such is not something taken lightly by himself, his fellow directors, or students. It is a task that they approach with care and diligence. According to Scott, it is a process that develops over the season.
“Each Friday night the show has a little bit more added to it till it eventually reaches completion,” he explained. “In an average show the kids are learning about 60 sets of drills. That’s 60 individual points where they’re marching to, and obviously it takes time with that process. Then the color guard will work in their visual work with their sets. And then obviously the music comes in conjunction with all of that. It’s a really neat process.”
Scott added that from all of that hard work, students are more than ready to perform by the season’s first game.
“The first time in uniform is always the coolest,” he said. “Sometimes depending upon the heat, which I’m afraid we may be dealing with this year, the first few games will be in lighter uniforms because we don’t want the kids to get over-heated. But the first one in full uniform is cool. The kids get really excited about that.”
This season, the band is performing selections from the hit television show, “Lost,” well-known Broadway production, “Dear Evan Hansen,” Samuel Barber’s “Medea’s Dance of Vengeance,” and the 80’s sci-fi cinematic classic, “The Abyss.”
“It starts with the theme from the TV show, ‘Lost,’ ” said Scott. “Then that will be layered a little bit with the main big hit from the Broadway play, ‘Dear Evan Hanson.’ Then you’ll hear Samuel Barber’s ‘Medea’s Dance of Vengeance,’ and then we go into music from the movie ‘The Abyss.’”
Scott said that the goal on Friday nights is to connect to the crowd and have them come away with something from their performance.
“We always try to do something that somebody could connect to,” he explained. “There will be people in that audience that have watched the TV show ‘Lost’ and as soon as that hits the beginning you’re going to know that theme. And it’s going to bring back memories from that show. This is the power of music, and what’s so cool about it is where it can take you. We tried to do a little bit for everybody with it.”
Assistant Director of Bands Lisa Burden added that the band plays an essential role in the atmosphere of the game.
“Last season, there were a few games that we were unable to attend due things such as thunderstorms, extenuating distance, and that kind of thing. And the fans told us that it just wasn’t the same without us. So it’s really cool to be a part of it. It’s really special to be part of a tradition in the culture.”
Both Burden and Scott also credit the support of former and current football coaches in further confirming the band’s critical role in the tradition of Friday nights.
“John Olive, now retired [as THS head coach], was always the epitome of class because he would always make a point to let the kids know how important they were to that atmosphere,” explained Scott. “He would come over and say thanks to the band. It was always very refreshing because, unfortunately, it is not the norm. We have talked to a lot of our band director friends about the camaraderie between the football staff and team, [and] the band. That’s just not the norm out there, which is sad, but it’s very refreshing for us. We are really excited to continue that relationship with Coy [Sisk] this year, as the new head coach.”
As the band builds on this year’s season, game by game, Burden said that she knows the students will continue to rise to the occasion and bring home their own victory.
“One of the things that I love most about the Tullahoma band program is the demand for music, entertainment, and the difficulty of music. For them, the music always comes first and that is super awesome. They work really hard to make these things come to light. And when they do, and when you see their eyes shine and glow and they’re like, ‘We did it!’ For me, that is the ultimate reward for what we’re doing.” GN