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Tharptown Band participates in first marching competition

The Tharptown High School band, Pride of Wildcat Country, participated in the Northwest Alabama Marching Classic at Russellville High School Sep. 28 – one of 29 bands that participated. 

The band is in its sixth year – second year for the color guard. Saturday’s event was the group’s first marching competition. 

The band performed three rock songs representing decades from the 1970s-2000s: “We Will Rock You,” “Back in Black” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Drum major Joshua Lopez, a sophomore, was rated a one, a designation that indicates a score between 85-100 for the “superior” designation. The rest of the band was rated a two, 70-85 out of 100, a rating which is considered “excellent.”

“I’m incredibly proud of our band for putting in the time and hard work needed to grow into what we’ve become,” Lopez said. “We don’t currently have the funds to do everything we need to do and would like to do. I hope that more opportunities will be made available in the future to help us be able to improve even further.”

Band director Callie Henderson, who is in her third year as band director at Tharptown and in her sixth year as a band director overall, also shared pride in her band members for “doing so well in their first-ever marching competition. In the next couple of weeks, we plan to add the song “21 Guns” to the songs we are performing.” 

Henderson said the band participated in a spring music performance assessment at the University of North Alabama this year, something she described as “kind of an ACT for band,” where they played for three judges and had to sightread music they had never seen before. 

“We didn’t go for ratings,” Henderson said, “just for comments. They played on the stage at the University of North Alabama and rocked it out of the park. I’m incredibly pleased with how well the students work together to be their best in how they represent themselves, the school and the community.” 

The band has 24 members, which includes the drum major and six colorguard members. They practice either outside or inside their portable classroom. 

Lydia Henderson, a junior who plays center snare, highlighted both the positives and the challenges of playing with the Pride of Wildcat Country.  

“I love marching and playing my drum,” she said. However, “we have extra challenges as a smaller band, having fewer resources than some schools do. I leave practice with headaches because of certain things I have to do with my music, and I worry about hearing loss. The sound levels can be really painful.” She said playing inside can be challenging because of the number of people in the available space and the acoustics. 

Using ear plugs would prevent being able to hear directions, and playing outside presents its own problems, like extremely hot weather or the wind blowing away practice music.

“I’m really proud of how far we’ve come as a band,” added Nathan Leibhart, a sophomore saxophone player. “We’re doing well, but we do have challenges we could use help with, such as maintenance problems and extra high sound levels in our classroom. We are crowded into a small space with loud instruments. We don’t have room to grow our band.” 

THS Principal Ann Scott is in her first year as principal at Tharptown High, returning to Tharptown after two years as principal at Belgreen. She said the band makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of pep rallies and with promoting school spirit in general. 

“I’ve been amazed at how much the band has improved and how much they have grown over the course of just a few years,” said Scott, who served as Tharptown Elementary principal before her time at Belgreen. “I know they are in great need of funding. We are looking for funding for instruments and uniforms. It’s my understanding there are plans to add on a band room at some point; I’m not sure what the timeline is on that. We look forward to the band growing even more in the future.”

Like many school groups, the band has relied on fundraisers to help provide the money needed to make purchases and upgrades. Scott said the school is trying to make sure all students get the same opportunities to fund their passions; so, in order not to overwhelm the families and the community with fundraisers, there is a limit of two fundraisers per club per year.

Scott added, however, that the band booster club – made up of band parent volunteers – may have as many fundraisers as it wishes.

Henderson said the band’s two fundraisers this year will be selling Priester Pecan Pies in October and selling strawberries from Florida in January.

“It is very tough to run a small program that is only beginning,” Henderson said. “There are a lot of expenses. Maybe together as a community we can lift these kids up and help them have even more. They have worked as hard as they can to be successful, and I am very proud of them. We have one more upcoming competition, and there may be others if we are able to work it out.” 

The band will compete in the Deshler High School Coldwater Classic Oct. 26. 

 “I’ve seen the band’s progress skyrocket,” Henderson added. “These students deserve nothing less than excellence. They’re making great strides to lay a foundation for their fellow band members of the future.”