Booneville, Smithville win state band titles

The hot days on the practice field and the fall days spent marching in the mud now seem a little bit sweeter for several Northeast Mississippi high school marching bands.
Booneville and Smithville High Schools each won state titles over the weekend in the Mississippi High School Activities Association championships while several other Northeast Mississippi schools fared well.
“I had a lot of my kids say, ‘All those days when we were hot, it was worth every bit of it,” said Booneville band director John Emerson, whose band won the Class 3A title. “That is the thing we try to preach to kids. In life, you work hard and because you work, you are able to succeed.”
Ripley High School finished second in Class 3A, and Nettleton was fifth. In Class 4A, Pontotoc came in fourth, and New Albany finished seventh.
Baldwyn was fifth in Class 2A, Saltillo was fifth in Class 5A and Tupelo placed fifth in Class 6A.
This was Smithville’s third consecutive year at the state championships, but the Class 1A school’s first title. Smithville band director Jeff Colburn said that for the small school, it meant a lot just being able to participate in the state championships.
“After three years of doing it, to be able to win was a great honor,” Colburn said. “It has never been about winning or losing to us. For us, we’ve looked at the championships as an opportunity to push our performance.”
Emerson and his wife, Lora, who each serve as band directors at Booneville, also won state championships at the school in 2004 and 2005. John Emerson agreed that the opportunity to win state championships has caused great improvement in his kids.
“Because of that, they have wanted to learn to play better and to march better,” Emerson said. “It has given them the desire to learn.”
The Class 3A competition, held at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, was tight. Booneville received 90.18 points, and Ripley had 87.8.
Ripley had the highest score in the music caption, which is 40 percent of the overall score, but Booneville was first in visual and general effect.
Booneville also finished first for color guard and percussion, but those captions don’t count toward the overall score. Ripley was second in all of the other captions. Nettleton was third in general effect.
“The kids gave absolutely all they could give at the performance,” Ripley band director Sam Cunningham said. “I was very pleased with what they did, and how they acted.”
Tupelo High School band director Vance Wigginton said he was very happy with his school’s top-five placement.
“I was very excited to see the championship has done what the intention was, which was to make bands in Mississippi better,” he said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

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