MYRTLE BEACH — The Socastee and St. James high school marching bands will represent Horry County in the State Marching Band Championships Saturday, after last weekend’s finish in the top tier of their divisions in lower state competition.
Socastee will perform its anti-bullying program, “The Playground,” at the 4A division contest in Spring Valley High School in Columbia, while St. James will compete in the 3A division final at Batesburg-Leesville High School with “The Gift,” based on the Appalachian folk song “Simple Gifts.”
The schools are competing in different divisions because the state competition classifies marching bands by school size, while local competitions are based on the size of the group. Aynor High School’s band, with 55 members, also competed in the lower state contest in the 2A division with a rock version of Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” but missed the cutoff for the state competition by one spot.
“It’s the fifth time that’s happened – it’s so competitive,” said Aynor band director Mark Mendez. “The band played really, really well, probably the best the Aynor band has ever played.”
The band directors began designing their new programs in May – everything from conceiving of the original concept and arranging the music, to plotting each person’s movements on the field. The bands, which include students from middle schools and other district programs, must learn all the pieces in rehearsals outside of the classroom.
Socastee’s band – 80 members strong – has been to state competition all but one of the last seven years, said band director Cheryl Polenick. She said the band did very well last year, but this year has won three Grand Champion awards in local competitions, including first-place honors for music, marching, effect, color guard, percussion and drum major.
“I don’t think there’s a secret to it - it’s just hard work,” Polenick said. “You just have to put the time in.”
Polenick said she had wanted this year’s program to feature popular music that would be recognized by more Socastee students and foster interest in the band. She found the song “Bully” by Shinedown, which triggered the anti-bullying theme of “The Playground” program, which also includes “Come Out and Play” by The Offspring, “Creep” by Radiohead and “Thnks fr th Mmrs” (pronounced “thanks for the memories”) by Fall Out Boy.
St. James also has had a successful season, said band director Chuck Capps, whose 42-member group is the smallest band in the 3A division.
“We’ve been winning our class everywhere we’ve gone,” Capps said. “We won Grand Championship at [the Aynor Fanfare Marching Competition] the first half of the day, and [Socastee] won the second half, but we’ve been second place to them quite a few times.”
St. James’ program, “The Gift,” came about in May after the death of Green Sea Floyds band director Dale Hair, and the band dedicated the program to him, Capps said.
“My goal was to have the audience come to their own conclusion about the show,” he said. “For me, the greatest gift is the birth of my child, but for another, the gift could be a mentor, friendship or a successful career.”
Capps said reaching the state finals is always his goal for the St. James band, which has been to the competition five consecutive years and six of the 11 years the school has been in existence, but it’s not all about being considered one of the elite programs in the state.
“I don’t go after trophies just to bring home hardware,” he said. “It’s about having a work ethic – practice and rehearse. No one has the same program, so you really compete against yourself.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.