Fort Mill Times

Bands marching to their own beat

Nation Ford Band members get ready to perform at a recent football game.
Nation Ford Band members get ready to perform at a recent football game.

Casual observers of a high school marching band might notice the music, the color guard, or the formations the band makes on the field. But lovers of the art know that a marching band’s show is more than music, formations and flags.

Shows often have a complex theme with meaning behind each musical selection, formation and movement of the color guard .

The Fort Mill, Nation Ford and Indian Land use all of these techniques to present top notch performancesat the competitions they enter this fall.

From Bach to Tolstoy

The Fort Mill High marching band, led by director John Pruitt, developed its 2015 show with the music of Russian masters in mind. This year’s theme, “Torn, a Tolstoy Portrait,” draws on characters and themes from the works of Leo Tolstoy, including “War and Peace,” and “Anna Karenina.”

“It was the love of the music for all of us,” Pruitt said. “When we first started playing some of the Russian composers, it was unanimous that we loved it. We started with the music and that led us to the show.”

The show will feature classical music, orchestral symphonies and opera, Pruitt said, but much of it will be recognizable to fans.

“It’s marching band. People should be able to say, ‘Oh, I get it,’” Pruitt said.

Nation Ford’s show, “Bachxed In,” evolved from brainstorming sessions with his creative staff, said director Martin Dickey.

Nation Ford’s show features the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and cubes and boxes as props that help depict the theme.

“It has multiple meanings, to be boxed in,” Dickey said. “It’s thinking outside the box, or how people feel boxed into whatever they are doing and struggle to get out.”

Indian Land High School’s theme is “The Game.” This is the first year a designer has helped create the entire marching band show for Indian Land. The show takes a cue from “The Hunger Games” by imagining a dome-like arena and a fight for survival, but comparisons end there. The narrative depicted is unique and all music performed will be original music, director Mathew Willis said.

Competitive streak

The Nation Ford and Indian Land marching bands will both vie for the state competition on Oct. 31, though in separate divisions.

In addition to the S.C. Upper State and State competitions, Indian Land also will travel to regional competitions, including the Olde English Festival of Bands in Rock Hill, which typically draws bands from around North and South Carolina.

Nation Ford will compete in several regional competitions before heading to the Upper State and State Championships, as well as the Bands of America Regional in Winston-Salem.

Both Fort Mill and Nation Ford marching bands traditionally compete in at least one Bands of America competition each season. The Bands of America competitions include a preliminary competition with 10 to 12 bands advancing to the final competition. They are typically performed in college stadiums or, in the case of the Bands of America Super Regional, the Georgia dome, Pruitt said.

They Bands of America competitions are a “celebration of the arts,” Pruitt said.

“It’s a great experience for the students and a celebration of what they do on a higher level experience-wise than performing in a local show, which is similar to what they are used to. Those have rewards, but this is a higher level of reward and you get to see some great bands from multiple states.”

Fort Mill High’s marching band takes a break from the state competition this year to attend two Bands of America regional competitions, which are one-day events with 30 competing bands, and the Super Regional in Atlanta – a two-day event with more than 60 bands competing.

Fort Mill also continues to raise money and prepare for a spring trip to Normandy, France, where the band will perform at the American Military Cemetery.

Winning isn’t everything

Both the Fort Mill and Nation Ford marching bands have a long history of securing state championship titles and first places wins at competitions both in the state and around the country. But winning isn’t the primary objective for the season, both Dickey and Pruitt said.

“Our biggest goal is for the students to always see growth as individuals and as an ensemble. Where did we start versus where did we end. Our goal is to always make every performance better than the last, and our only competition is ourselves,” Dickey said.

Pruitt said that he and his staff study what the top bands in the nation are doing and attempt to stay relevant and current with those trends, while also keeping the identity and sound that has been part of the tradition of Fort Mill High School’s marching band.

“It’s always chasing the highest level of excellence,” he said. “We just keep striving for the level of performance that will put them among the best bands in the Southeast each year.”

Indian Land’s Warrior Band has been steadily growing in size in recent years, from approximately 30 students just a few years ago to more than 60 this year. They also are working to move up the ranks in the state competition, where they placed fourth last year. Willis admits that the students’ have their eyes on the state competition prize. But he prefers to focus solely on improvement instead of titles.

“We want to improve on our placement at state finals last year. I just want to improve on how we did. If we can do that, then everything else takes care of itself,” Willis said.

Learn more

Fort Mill High School Marching Band

Director: John Pruitt

Assistant Directors: Ren Patel, Kirk Godbey, Sean Carney, Jason Ford, Jennifer Hughes

Drum Majors: David Hahn, Gabrielle Hoang, Eric Johnson, Roxy Fourie

Members: 172 members (56 Brass, 54 Woodwinds, 32 Percussion, 26 Color Guard, 4 Drum Majors)

Recent honors:

▪ 2014 Class 4A State Champion (24th state title overall)

▪ Superior Rating for the Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band at SCBDA Concert Festival

▪ Selected as a Featured Ensemble for the 2016 University of South Carolina Band Clinic

▪ Invited to perform at the American Military Cemetery in Normandy, France (spring break 2016)

On the web:

Twitter: @fortmillhsband

Facebook: Fort Mill Band Fan Forum

Performance Schedule:

Sept. 19 Community Preview Performance at FMHS, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 26 Cuthbertson HS (N.C.)

Oct. 3 Bands of America Regional (Powder Springs, Ga.)

Oct. 10 Bands of America Regional (Wake Forest University, N.C.)

Oct. 17 Blythewood HS

Oct. 31 Bands of America Super Regional (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

April 1, 2016—American Military Cemetery (Normandy, France)

Nation Ford High School Marching Band

Director: Martin Dickey

Assistant Director: Ray Linkous

Drum Majors: Katie Berry and Katlyn Hartrum

Members: 164 (115 Winds, 18 Percussion, 29 Color Guard, 2 Drum Majors)

Recent honors:

▪  Performed in the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

▪  2012 Placed third in Class AA in the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis.

▪  Paid tribute in 2014 to the nation’s Armed Forces in a concert at Pearl Harbor

▪  The band has recieved the S.C. Band Directors Association Outstanding Performance Award each year and been awarded the National Band Association's Citation of Excellence and Certificate of Merit for outstanding contributions with concert and marching bands.

On the web:

Facebook: Nation Ford HS Band Boosters

Performance Schedule:

Sept. 19 Nation Ford Exhibition, Nation Ford High School

Oct. 3 Hickory Ridge Competition, Hickory Ridge High School

Oct. 10 Bands of America Regional, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Oct. 17 Western Carolina Tournament of Champions

Oct. 24 Upper State Competition, Woodmont High School

Oct. 31 State Championship, Spring Valley High School

Indian Land High School Warrior Band

Director: Mathew Willis and Scott Fleischman

Drum Major: Melvin Stroble

Number of band members: 60 (20 woodwinds, 18 brass, 13 percussion, 9 Color Guard)

Recent honors:

▪ 2014 SCBDA 2A State Championships, fourth Overall

▪ 2014 Olde English Festival of Bands, First in Class

▪ 2014 Chesnee Eagle Classic, First in Class

▪ SCBDA Concert Festival, Superior Rating

▪ 2015 Recipient of the SCBDA Outstanding Performance Award

On the web:


Twitter: @ILHSband

Instagram: ilhsmarchingband

Performance Schedule:

Sept. 12 Andrew Jackson High School Exhibition

Sept. 19 Nation Ford Exhibition, Nation Ford High School

Sept. 26 Olde English Festival of Bands, Rock Hill

Oct. 3 Hickory Ridge Tournament of Bands

Oct. 17 Blythewood Tournament of Bands

Oct. 24 Upper State Competition

Oct. 31 State Championship