By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Marching bands from across Northeast Mississippi descended on Tupelo on Saturday in school buses, vans and trucks hauling semi-trailers bearing logos and championship emblems.
Tupelo High School hosted the 42nd annual Region I Marching Band Festival, featuring marching shows from 28 bands in Northeast Mississippi.
When the Mantachie High School band took the field, something was different. Batman was playing a saxophone, Superman was marching with a tuba, Mr. Incredible was on the trombone line and Spiderman played the mellophone.
The band’s theme was superheroes and they played the theme songs of The Incredibles, Superman and Batman. Each band had a different themed show, some taking their theme further than others.
“I am Spiderman,” said Taran Rutherford. “It’s harder – I can’t see out of the corner of my eyes at all and it’s really hot. It’s really fun, especially after halftime, walking around in a Spiderman suit.”
John Emerson, Booneville Blue Devil Marching Band director, said Saturday’s event is “the equivalent of our state testing. They judge us in marching, concert and sight-reading, and today is the marching portion.”
The Aberdeen marching band also had a distinctly visual theme. The drum line and drum major were dressed like Michael Jackson and their halftime show was a tribute to his final tour.
“We’ve worked really hard since July,” said band director Tony Reece. “A lot of planning has been involved and the student leadership has been good.”
Jaylen Payne, a senior drum line member for Aberdeen, said the “This is It” show helped get the students interested. “The show actually made me go watch Michael Jackson on YouTube,” he said.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association judges and ranks each band. The bands that receive superior ratings have the opportunity to compete in the state championship.
“This is a big moment for a lot of the bands,” said Tim Matlock, Tupelo High School band director. “We’ve been planning this for about two months now and it takes a lot of hard work, especially from our band boosters and students.”
Matlock and the Tupelo band not only host the event, but they are evaluated as well.
“We’re doing The Road Home,” Matlock said of their show. “It ties into the Wizard of Oz and it’s a crowd-pleaser that everyone can recognize.”
The bands have been preparing for their shows since this summer, meeting most days, even before school began.
“It’s a long and tedious process and it’s something you’ve got to be really committed to,” said Tupelo sophomore drum line member Zachary Campbell. “You have to work hard and push through – if you come one day and aren’t feeling it, you have to push that out.”
Tupelo sophomore color guard member Maddie Arancibia said it’s worth the work.
“It is a lot of hard work but when you’re on the field performing – especially if you get first place – it’s a lot of fun. It’s worth it. The whole band is like a family and we all get along really well and it’s a whole lot of fun.”