The late morning sun was already sending temperatures into the 90s and the noon hour was approaching. The Bryan County football team had finished its work for the day but there was one group still gamely going through its drills on the school’s front lawn.
The Pride of the Tribe marching band was in the midst of putting in another long day –they go from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. for two weeks—to get ready for this fall’s football season and its competition events.
Expectation for football in the fourth year of Coach Cherard Freeman’s rebuilding program are sky high. The same can be said for the marching band which is in its third year under Director of Bands Avery Gallups. Gallups is the school’s fourth Director of Bands in the past decade with none lasting more than three years. His predecessor was on the job for one year before leaving and that, along with COVID, was a setback in the band’s growth and development.
“When I got the job, the program was struggling,” Gallups said. “There were 38 kids in the marching band my first year. We currently have 58.”
Gallups and his wife, Bailey, are graduates of Jacksonville State University. Bailey is the color guard director and is also a teacher at the high school. Jonathan MacArthur is the percussion director.
To boost the numbers Gallups started at the ground level as he went about recruiting middle school students and their parents, too.
In his first year, for example, there were 15 sixth-graders in the concert band, Last year there were 33 sixth-graders. The band boosters, Gallup said, has gone from five members to a much larger group.
“COVID really impacted the marching band,” Gallups said. “I wasn’t here then but If kids weren’t in school, they couldn’t participate so we lost kids we never got back. In that regard it’s still impacting us.”
Last year Gallups gave seventh-graders the opportunity to participate with the marching band and that helped give the program a shot in the arm.
“Those kids are eighth graders now and they’re still with us,” Gallups said. “That’s really helped with the numbers.”
The band’s improvement was evident last fall which is the season for marching band competition. The Redskins did especially well in performances at Southeast Bulloch, Grovetown and Statesboro.
At SEB’s Band Blast, which is a festival rather than competition but where bands are judged and rated, the Redskins got Superior scores for band, drum major, color guard and percussion.
At Grovetown they received overall superior scores and best in class (A) band. In scoring they were one point behind the Class A grand champion. At Statesboro the Redskins were second among eight Class A bands.
This fall the Redskins will again be performing at SEB and Grovetown. Rather than returning to Statesboro the band, Gallups said, will be at Richmond Hill on Oct. 28 where the Wildcats will be holding their first band competition event.
A big plus in helping with the growth of the band, Gallups said, is the leadership of upper classmen who have stayed with the program and worked with and encouraged younger members.
This year’s drum major is Elijah Westcott. The captains are: Grant Shuman, brass; Lacey Holcombe and Diesel Chavez, woodwind; Lance Lowe and Michael Jones, percussion; Camilla Nails, color guard; Coneelius Brand, equipment, Logan Stair is the flag specialist and Madison Vannoy is weapons specialist, Gallups said.
“All of our sports pull from the same pool of kids,” Gallups said. “We don’t have any kids who play football but we have a ton of kids who run cross country and track. We’re happy to share our kids with the sports teams.
“The kids who get involved with marching band get excited about it. They come and wind up staying because it’s fun.”
The first home football game is Sept. 1 against Wheeler County which will be the team’s third game. Gallups is excited about the Redskins’ prospects but he is also excited about what the Pride of the Tribe will be bringing to the table, too.