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The marching band asks 'Are you ready to rock?'

Kelly Memorial Stadium will be rocking this football season.
Head football coach Pat Collins has his Gamecocks primed for the rigors of another tough region schedule, but the rocking doesn’t stop at halftime.
Director of bands Chris Harper’s marching Gamecocks will present a mixture of current and classic Rock ‘N Roll tunes to keep the Friday night intensity up.
One of the largest SCHS bands Harper has conducted in his nine years in Sylvania will showcase “Rock Retro Grade.”
The 71-member band will open with “Dr. Feelgood” by Motley Crue. That will be followed by Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and then an instrumental work by Nine Inch Nails with heavy percussion, metal objects and other items.
As the football season continues, the band will add “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol.
“This is music from now back to the 1970s,” Harper said. “We are hitting a couple generational points with this. There is no reason a person can come up to me and say ‘I don’t know these songs.’”
Harper said the most recognizable tune of the grouping probably is “Immigrant Song.”
“It has been in countless movies and countless commercials,” Harper said of the popular Led Zeppelin song. “I’ve even heard it done as elevator music. It is a part of our culture.”
To put a show together, Harper said he listens to hundreds of music releases, and makes a list of music people should recognize.
“When I call up the piece, I want the kids to get excited at it,” he said. “It is about musical value. This year the show is very heavy on syncopation, or disruption or interruption of rhythm flow.
“Our show is full of syncopation, not where the foot would tap for a downbeat,” Harper said. “It is for entertainment value.”
And the band tackling this year’s rock gems is large in numbers.
“Except for my first year, this is the largest band we’ve had in number of woodwinds and percussions,” said Harper, who praised middle school band director Jason Long for his efforts. “This is the first cycle of students under Jason. They are good students and they are doing well. They have had the consistency at the middle school level.
“The key is you’ve got to have those numbers in sixth grade band,” Harper said. “If a kid really, really wants to be in band and there is a financial situation we will do whatever we can to put an instrument in the child’s hands as long as the child’s commitment is there.”
Two-thirds of the band this season is brand new.
Counting freshmen, those students who moved into the school district or those who have rejoined the band, there are 29 new members playing either woodwinds or percussion.
And that does not even include the color guard totals.
“That is substantially better than last year when we got nine,” Harper said of newcomers to the band program.
“I like the growth of the band,” he said. “The band program is thriving. We have good numbers particularly for the decrease in our school system’s enrollment. Even though we have a declining enrollment numbers, our band numbers are increasing.”
With growing numbers of young band members, it does pose challenges, but good challenges.
“A setback is we are very young, but the youth have enormous potential,” Harper said. “It will be exciting to see what they develop into in the next two years.
“With new kids, we have got to change some things in marching aspects. You have got to start from the basics.”
The band only has 12 seniors.
The band this season will be without majorette twirlers. Harper said currently there is a shortage of high school-aged accomplished twirlers and Amy Scott, who had worked with the majorettes, has chosen to take time off from assisting the band to work on her masters and care for her newborn child.
“I am supportive of that,” said Harper of Scott’s decision. “But I miss Amy being around. She is one of the hardest working people I know.
“I was hoping we would have majorettes again, but they have to be highly skilled at their twirling,” he said.
Harper said the band members will be directed by him, Long, Bulloch County music teacher Cathy Frey, and Nicole Patton, a Georgia Southern student teacher  who has a “wealth of experience as a woodwind player and color guard member.”
The biggest difficulty right now for the band is trying to actually get onto the field. The weather has been problematic.
“It has either been raining, about to rain, lightning, or about to lightning,” Harper said. “Now is crunch time on the field. We need to get a quality amount of time on the field.”
But the weather has affected all bands in the area.
“Every band will have less of a product early on in the season because of the weather. You can’t help the weather,” Harper said.
If the band goes to play at the Gamecocks’ away games will depend on money. Like all the other groups in the school system, budget restraints has forced them to generate their own funds to pay for a driver and fuel.
“The season will be subjected to us earning the money,” Harper said. “We are in this together. If all the band can’t go, then we don’t go.”
But the prospects are looking up. Harper said that Saturday’s car wash went well and that probably will be enough to pay for one away game. More fundraisers are planned.
“Parents are soliciting businesses for help and we are getting closer to the goal,” he said.
Beyond the football game halftime shows, the band traditionally attends marching festivals in the fall. Again money plays into the decisions.
Harper said he has some choices to make.
One possibility is a festival that is spread out over two weekends in a circuit system format.
“We would perform one weekend to get a total and then take that total to another event to get an overall total,” he said.
The first site is at Washington County and the second one is at Burke County. The band may not be able to attend the Washington County part, but Burke County one is feasible because of its proximity.
Hartwell, a locale the band has frequented, changed its event weekend. This year it is the same as Screven County fall break.
Statesboro High School was a possibility, but they canceled their festival because the school’s construction will not be done by October.
“Every band director is trying to do something local. We are optimistic we can find something,” Harper said.
“Times are tough economically, but we don’t have it nearly as bad as some others do,” he said. “Some programs (at other schools) have been eliminated. Some programs with 200 members had to be eliminated.”
After marching band, the students will perform in a winter concert in December, the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in January, and the Livestock Festival parade in April.
Festival adjudication will be in March and some form of a “Music In Our Schools” concert will be conducted.
Harper also said several of his students will attend honor band.
The music technology class in its first year at the high school has been expanded into two classes.
“Students are begging to be in the music technology class,” he said. “Music technology is a very hot topic. Many colleges are now offering it as a degree. What I’m offering here would be offered in a college course.”
He said there are limitless possibilities.
“With music technology, there are so many directions you can take it,” Harper said.
The marching band has 71 members. The concert band is projected to have 77.
With the addition of the music technology program, approximately 98 SCHS students are involved in music.
“That’s a good number for a school our size. Over 10 percent of our school is involved in a music endeavor,” Harper said.