Marching to the beat of victory: Murray State students help local bands make history

Story by Sydni Anderson, Staff writer

Photo courtesy of Leigh Wright

Two local high school marching bands made school history in the 2017 Kentucky Music Educators Association State Marching Band Championships in late October. The Murray High School marching band competed in class A and won the KMEA championship for the first time ever. Calloway County High School marching band made it to finals for the first time since 2008, competing in class 3A.

Tiger Band Director Tim Zeiss said the students were very excited about being the class A marching band champions. Sixteen marching bands competed in the semi-finals with four advancing to finals.

The show was titled ‘The Bridesmaid’ a theme which the Tiger band community admittedly used to underscore their several appearances in state finals without walking away with a win. This year though, the bride got something blue: a blue ribbon medal, marking their first place win.

Zeiss said several high school alumni contributed to the band and helped design the show. He had Murray State students attending rehearsals, running small sections and helping with small groups.

“There was a lot of energy that night,” Zeiss said. “[The students] didn’t back down from anything, and they performed very well.”

Zeiss said the win was a huge excitement on his part. He said it was great to see the reactions of students who were overjoyed by the achievement.

“It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hours and sacrifice,” Zeiss said. “To see them finally win it was great. We’ve been pretty close to it before. There was a whole lot of satisfaction seeing their faces.”

The Monday after the Tiger Band’s state finals victory, the Laker Band sent flowers to the ‘bride,’ congratulating the band on their win.

Hunter Carter, senior music education major from Madisonville, Kentucky is on staff for the Calloway County High School band. He has worked with the band for three years as a visual music technician, working with the brass section. Carter calls himself a visual and brass tech and said he has gained a lot of experience in teaching.

“The directors there, Mr. Suiter and Dr. Jones, have been great with letting me teach independently and trusting me and really letting me push [the students] and take them to the next level,” Carter said. “It’s been awesome.”

As a tech, Carter traveled with the Calloway County High School band to the state marching band competition. The band competed against 15 others in the semi-finals and performed original music and source music from Born to Be Wild and My Body is a Cage by Peter Gabriel. Band Director Derick Jones said the semi-finals performance in Nelson County was the band’s best performance.

Calloway County High School placed third, becoming one of the four bands advancing to finals. Jones said the band had outscored Bourbon County, the eventual 3A state champion. The band placed fourth at finals; Jones said it was one of the best moments of his 24 year career.

“If you’re the director of a competitive marching band, your main goal is to get to the final four, and I’m very honored to have reached that with this outstanding group of students,” Jones said.

Grant Knox, senior music education major from Lexington, Kentucky also helps out with the Calloway County High School marching band. Like Carter, Knox contributes to the brass section and visual elements.

“Anything from music to choreography of the band,” Knox said. “Occasionally I help out with logistics, so almost helping out as like a third band director.”

Knox said the band was surprised they made it to finals. He said he was happy that the marching band’s hard work paid off and that they provided a consistently good show through the season. Knox said the experience was like a Cinderella story.

“Seeing the looks on those kids and parents faces–they were crying and hugging–it was honestly magical,” Knox said.

Jones said the Murray State students like Knox and Carter who help out with the marching band are phenomenal.

“They do an outstanding job helping prepare the students for the rigors of the season and provide invaluable knowledge on their individual expertise,” Jones said. “We could not be the success we are without them.”