Racer band practicing for Festival of Champions

Jenny Rohl/The News
Xylophone player, Katherine Holler, plays “Uptown Funk,” during its halftime performance.Jenny Rohl/The News Xylophone player, Katherine Holler, plays “Uptown Funk,” during its halftime performance.

Story by Alec Mullins, Contributing writer

Jenny Rohl/The News Xylophone player, Katherine Holler, plays “Uptown Funk,” during its halftime performance.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Xylophone player, Katherine Holler, plays “Uptown Funk,” during its halftime performance.

As the sun set on campus Tuesday, the air around Roy Stewart Stadium buzzed with energy and music.

The only sound that could be heard above the noise was the voice of John Fannin, director of the Racer Band, as they put the final touches on their halftime shows for Murray State football games.

The band has also been rehearsing with something else in mind.

On Sept. 19 at Stewart Stadium, Murray State and the Racer Band staff will host high schools from all across the state for the 2015 Festival of Champions.

Established in 1976, the all day showcase will feature the best marching bands from Kentucky, in a competitive celebration.

“We’re ready to show everyone what we’ve been working on and see what the schools that are coming here have to show us,” Fannin said.

Jenny Rohl/The News Xylophone player, Jacob Therin, concentrates on Fannin’s direction during the halftime performance.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Xylophone player, Jacob Therin, concentrates on Fannin’s direction during the halftime performance.

Though the focus of the event is on the high school bands and students, the Racer Band will also perform its show, first during the preliminary round and then again for the finals.

“I think all of us really enjoy the reactions we get when our old classmates and friends see us perform with the Racer Band the first time,” said Charlie Graves, junior band member. “It’s a reminder of the progress we’ve made since high school.”

Festival of Champions is open to the public but the event will also be broadcast on Kentucky Educational Television, which brings an air of excitement for the students involved.

“I love the fact that the event is broadcast across the state because it gives everyone the opportunity to see not only the Racer Band but the all of the great high schools we have performing,” said Jimmie Powers, bass guitarist of Racer Band. “We don’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase the work that we put in but Festival of Champions really gives us a platform to show why we work as hard as we do.”

Statewide attention aside, the audience in Stewart Stadium makes the event as special as it is, said Bryan Edwards, a member of the front ensemble.

Jenny Rohl/The News Drum line members look at racer band director, John Fannin, for its cue during Thursday night’s game against Kentucky Wesleyan.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Drum line members look at racer band director, John Fannin, for its cue during Thursday night’s game against Kentucky Wesleyan.

“Specifically after we perform, the reaction from the crowd is nothing less than electric, being able to put a smile on someone’s face through music is the greatest feeling I could ask for,” Edwards said.

Beyond the Festival of Champions, the Racer Band will play in a Bands of America Super Regional event on Oct. 17 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Band members want students, alumni, faculty and family to come cheer on the Racer Band at the event.