October 26, 2011 4:05:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- If you've seen one marching band's halftime show, you've seen them all. Surprisingly, band members and instructors feel the same way.
Few, however, find a way to pique the interests of thousands of people who came to see a football game -- not the band.
"Most of the time, it's opener, middle song, closer," Starkville High School field commander Kashayla McGee said of typical performances. "It can feel like just a routine."
Shawn Sullivan, director of bands at SHS, was keen to squash the mundaneness by incorporating electric instruments, dialogue and identifiable pop songs into a show. In the summer, he introduced the concept for "Shuffle," a routine influenced by the iPod silhouette commercials.
During the show, two field commanders banter about what to listen to before the band "shuffles" to songs like "Holiday" by Madonna, "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson, "All of the Lights" by Kanye West and the opening song "Black and Yellow" by Wiz Khalifa.
The 118-member band has performed the halftime show at each Starkville High football game and at multiple competitions during the season. SHS won best in class in three categories at the Tenn-Tom Marching Classic in Aberdeen before earning five superior marks at the Mississippi High School Activities Association State Festival.
Starkville closed the competition season by winning first-place honors for overall band and majorette at the Chunky River Marching Invitational in Meridian.
Still, the most appreciated honor the band has received this season is a Twitter shout out from Clarion Ledger Sports Editor Rod Walker.
"We played at Ridgeland, and [Walker] tweeted about us ... the band," said Katie Wood, field commander. "Bands don't really get that often. That shows us people are enjoying the show."
The popularity of the halftime show has made fans out of classmates that previously paid the band no mind. And like a pop band with a new hit single, Starkville picks up a few more fans at each Friday night tour stop.
"Sometimes, we get more applause on the road than the other team's band," McGee said. "It's been pretty fun to watch the responses."
As flawless as Starkville performs the show each week, there's little on the field that connotes the youth of the squad. The band has just nine seniors and more than 45 freshmen. Additionally, the 118 members are the most Starkville has had in Sullivan's five years in charge.
"We were kind of sweating bullets early on," Wood said. "It's always an interesting journey when you start something new like this. You wonder how you're going to get things done. It can be daunting when you got so many new people."
While integrating freshmen into the mix, the set has 10 wireless microphones and three speakers to help produce the sound for saxophone, violin and guitar solos and keyboards. Then there's managing the swift movement of band and color guard members, large iPod banners and smoke effects.
"The music wasn't as big of a challenge as much as making it run smoothly," Sullivan said. "For the solo instruments, the biggest challenge was getting the amplification right and make sure there was no interference during the show. It helps that we have kids who are talented enough and already play.
"When I first introduced this to them, I told them this is gonna be so out there that it's gonna be a success, or people are gonna wonder what the heck we're doing," Sullivan added. "I've been happy with the way they've performed."
Sullivan is excited about this season's show raising the standard for next year, when he anticipates 40 new freshmen pushing the band's roster to 150. The transition should be seamless, as many of next year's freshmen serve as junior high band aides on the road.
"It gives them something to look forward to," Wood said. "They know they can do things on that level and have fun with it like we have."
annie laura commented at 10/26/2011 4:47:00 PM:
Love your article on the SHS Band. I follow their exceptional performances on FB and they are GRAND! Thanks for writing an informative article about EXCEPTIONAL young people in Starkville.
bandmom commented at 10/26/2011 7:19:00 PM:
Thank you for putting MUSIC in the paper! Great to read something upbeat! Lets show respect to the kids that practice, the parents that get them there, and the directors that love what they do....tell them Thank You when ever you see one!!!
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