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The Lewisville band that could

Members of the Lewisville High School Marching Lions band rehearse at the school Monday. The band won the Upper State title Saturday and will compete for the state title this weekend. It was the band's first Upper State title in 17 years.
Members of the Lewisville High School Marching Lions band rehearse at the school Monday. The band won the Upper State title Saturday and will compete for the state title this weekend. It was the band's first Upper State title in 17 years.

RICHBURG -- Logic said Lewisville High School's marching band would stink this year.

About a third of last year's band graduated or moved away. Middle school rookies were asked to play key roles. The band's director for four years resigned in the spring to lead a band in a neighboring county.

But what should have been what optimists call a "rebuilding year" and what pessimists call "stinking" was anything but.

The band director came back, the rookies -- including a pair of talented identical twins -- added some flare, and the band that shouldn't have gone anywhere won its first Upper State title Saturday in 17 years.

So much for logic.

"It's just kind of magical how it's happened," said band director Daniel Nuckolls.

In Nuckolls' first year at the school, the band finished seventh in the Upper State. The next year, the group placed fifth; then third; then second.

After four seasons of progress, Nuckolls, 29, thought he'd done all he could at Lewisville. He was offered a job at Indian Land High School in May. He'd already built Lewisville's program once and knew staying meant he would have to do so again. Moving on seemed like the best option.

Nuckolls resigned from his contract in Chester County. He called a band meeting and announced he was leaving. He even sent letters to band parents informing them of his decision.

The kids were upset. E-mails and calls from parents poured in. Nuckolls sensed that he wasn't ready to go.

"I just felt like God wasn't finished with me here," he said.

Less than a week after he'd been offered the Indian Land job, he asked for another contract in Chester County. With some talented younger members and a core group of juniors -- students he'd taught since they were sixth-graders -- Nuckolls went back to work helping 61 kids find rhythm.

That's when the younger kids started to shine.

"When you're younger you have that mentality that everything's fun," said 16-year-old drum major Daniel Dye. "Younger people have a knack for learning things quickly. ... Everything, to them, seems like a great thing."

That's how 12-year-old rookies Josh and Ben Pruette think. The sandy-haired, freckle-faced identical twins have relished their new after-school gig.

"Get to show up the veterans," Ben said bravely.

Josh, a trombonist, and Ben, a trumpet player, are equally confident about how the band will fare when it competes for the overall state crown Saturday.

"I just know we're going to win," Josh said.

For senior color guard member Ashley Sundeen, the Upper State title is nice, but this weekend's event could be a high note for her high school swan song.

"That's one of the best things we can imagine for our senior year," the 17-year-old said.

But even if the band finishes dead last Saturday, there's no way anyone could say this group stinks.

When Nuckolls and band members talk about their successes, they don't just mention the fast-learning preteens or the seniors who want to end their marching band careers by capturing the school's first state band championship in 20 years.

They also talk about wearing uniforms that were bought five years ago from another high school.

Their school colors are blue and gold, but they wear duds that are blue and silver. They couldn't afford to replace the embroidery, so they put a Lewisville patch over the other school's name.

They work with what they have.

They moved their gear in rental trucks until band boosters raised enough to buy a new trailer with the band's name on it this year.

They talk, too, about the things outside of the music: How they rallied around a drumline member after her cousin died from an asthma attack; how older members encourage the younger kids who don't feel like they fit in; how they rely on each other in and out the band room.

The group practiced Monday for the first time since winning the Upper State title.

"This is your last week, folks," Nuckolls yelled from the raised platform overlooking the band. "Push, push, push."

The band followed his orders in unison, hoping that Saturday they'll again prove logic wrong.

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