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Marching band music fills the air

Fall just started last weekend, and despite some lows dipping into the 50s this week, a season of festivals is just warming up.

The St. John’s Greek Festival and The Market Common’s Oktoberfest in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach’s Irish Italian International Festival and Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Art aren’t the only events where music will fill the air. A series of marching band competitions begun Saturday at Socastee High School continues as St. James and North Myrtle Beach high schools will take turns as hosts for band fests the next two Saturdays.

Chuck Capps, director of bands in his second year at St. James High, in the Burgess community, said much as local prep football teams each hope to claim a state championship, “we have the same thing in the band world,” in South Carolina.

Capps said the “Pride of St. James” band and boosters spent months planning its inaugural band meet, “Fin Fest,” for 3:30 p.m. this Saturday to help other bands prepare for their respective state quests or simply for groups “to compete against themselves.”

One big difference from gridiron players’ sport is the marching musicians compete within their entourages all the time “to try make yourself better” and that “it’s not about winning or losing,” Capps said. Performances are audiotaped so students can listen to and review the music in the classroom.

St. James’ band competed last weekend in Socastee, scoring highly, giving its 50 members “a great learning experience,” Capps said, but the band aspect goes beyond points scored.

“After you do your performance,” Capps said, “then it’s time for students ... to check out the other groups also there. They all support one another. That’s the nice thing about it: They all understand they’re all in it together, because they found somebody else who shares the same passion for the music.”

For its halftime shows this autumn, St. James readied a custom show of all-original music based on a concept from the movie “Click” starring Adam Sandler, from 2006. Capps said “the remote control takes over” in that the audience in the stands are watching a TV show on the field, “and the remote control goes haywire,” through which the band carries its show.

Capps, who said his appreciation of striving for perfection reflects values instilled from his own high school band director, said St. James is pending six straight weekends at such band festivals.

“I feel it’s very important to have marching bands and music in schools,” Capps said. “In this digital age, anybody can make music on iPods, but there’s something special about holding an instrument and using your emotions to play it.”

Charles Allen, director of bands since 2002 at North Myrtle Beach High School, home of the Marching Chiefs, has organized the “Marching to the Coast” band meet for 3 p.m. Oct. 6. Just like at St. James’ “Fin Fest,” some schools from North Carolina will compete.

This meet will fulfill the school’s band boosters club’s wish in the works for a few years, Allen said. Entertaining other bands for a meet will bring “the same level of joy” for him and the 57 Marching Chiefs.

“The students like it because they get to mingle with other band students,” Allen said.

Preparing for a football season brings its own training camp for the musicians, said Allen, explaining how the drummers and flag corps members begin in July with their own practices, then a full band camp starts every August. Once the season starts, rehearsals span about three hours each on two days after school.

A trombonist in his teen years, Allen said marching band “has always been a part of my life.”

North Myrtle Beach’s three-part show begins with an original piece called “Phantastic Jazz,” and during games, Allen said, “We play all these fan tunes,” such as the Florida State University Seminoles’ “Chop.”

Playing numbers such as “Frankenstein” and “Hey Baby” also get “the crowd involved,” Allen said.

“We have a lot of fun,” he said.