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Fort Mill, Clover bands march for state titles today

Two of South Carolina's top high school marching bands reside just a few miles from each other.

While the bands say they compete only against themselves, many spectators at today's 3A finals at Batesburg-Leesville High will be eager to see who comes out ahead between Fort Mill and Nation Ford High.

Two years ago, when the bands competed in separate classes, they both took home a state championship trophy.

Last year, the first year they competed in the same class, Nation Ford was crowned state champion.

Fort Mill High School

Class: 3A

Students in band: 158

Directors: John Pruitt, Chad Pence

Assistants: Kirk Godbey, Sean Carney, Jason Ford, Philip Rainer, Jennifer Hughes

Drum Majors: Josh Bradley, Perrin Thompson, Sawyer Bengtson

Competing: 3:15 p.m. today at Batesburg-Leesville High.

This year's show: "Vertigo" features music from the Alfred Hitchcock film score by Bernard Herrmann, "Slalom" by Carter Pann, "Sanvean" by Lisa Gerrard and Andrew Claxton, and "Fatal Tragedy" by Dream Theater.

Since 1976, the Fort Mill High Band has won 22 South Carolina marching band championships in three different classes. The band represented the state in the 1976 Bicentennial Parade in Philadelphia, the 1986 Macy's Parade in New York and the 1995 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. In 1998, 2002 and 2007, the band performed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Nation Ford High

Class: 3A

Students in band: 165

Director: Martin Dickey

Assistant Director: Ray Linkous

Assistants: Connie Grantham, Diana Leaver

Competing: 2:45 p.m. today at Batesburg-Leesville High.

This year's show: "The Grid," an original work commissioned for the Nation Ford Band by composer Frank Sullivan. "The Grid" represents an abstract world of ones and zeros that over time evolves to express itself through creativity.

Since Nation Ford High opened in 2007, the marching band has won two straight championship titles. In 2009, the band was chosen from among hundreds across the country to be one of eight bands to march in the 2011 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Clover High School

Class: 4A

Band Director: Eric Wells

Assistant Directors: Dan Lenard, Jonathan Rudd

Staff: Anne Lewis, Alisha Rudd, Lashara Gordon, Chelsea Manchester, Jeff Robinson, Courtney Wyatt

Drum Major: Manny Rojas

Competing: 1:30 p.m. today at Spring Valley High in Columbia.

This year's show: "Four Leaf," includes these selections: Symphony No. 4, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Symphony No. 3, Ludwig van Beethoven; Symphony No. 2, Sergei Rachmaninoff; Symphony No. 1, Gustav Mahler

Why "Four Leaf?" As Clover band director Wells notes from the show's script, "Legend has it that clover leaves bring good luck to its finder, especially if found by accident. Luck, however, might be hidden in the meanings of the leaves themselves. As we tackle life's ordeals, we cling to these four great virtues: faith, love, hope and luck."

Each movement is meant to depict these virtues, Wells says. Notice the music goes 4, 3, 2, 1 to represent each leaf of a four-leaf clover.

The Clover Wind Ensemble was a featured performer at the 2010 USC Band Clinic and the 2008 state music educators convention in Charleston. The Clover Marching Band won state championships in 1982 and 2007. The Indoor Drumline and Winter Guard both earned state championships in 2009. The Clover Band Program has earned South Carolina's Outstanding Performance Award for 13 straight years.