When most high school marching band organizations are rejoicing that they no longer have to work on choreography, steps and movements in addition to learning a musical piece for halftime football performances, field competitions and such, one DeSoto County band has been rewarded for working a bit longer on the practice field.
The “Pride of DeSoto Central” Marching Band of DeSoto Central High School, under the direction of Dennis Cox, last weekend came home from competing in the Bands of America Grand Nationals, held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
The 70,000-seat stadium many Sundays in the fall is home to the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, but for this past weekend was home to the event that annually attracts many of the top school marching organizations in the country, said assistant director Tyler Hart.
“Bands of America is a national competition in which bands from all around the country come to Indianapolis to participate,” Hart said. “ The Grand Nationals is the big one at the end of the year, held usually the second weekend in November. That competition hosts bands from all across the country.”
Extending the year past the final state marching competitions has been commonplace at DeSoto Central, which this year reached a level at the Grand Nationals that no Magnolia State band had ever achieved before.
“We were fortunate enough to get into the semifinal round,” Hart said. “We’ve been trying to reach that level for quite some time and this is the first year that any Mississippi band has broken into the semifinals, which would qualify us to be in the top 37 bands in the country.”
The DeSoto Central band this year consisted of 184 members who have been in a number of competitions during the fall, including a BOA Super Regional at St. Louis, Mo., all geared to get them ready for the culminating event in Indiana.
“We had the best show of our lives there to end the season, so it was really significant that we made history and all of our hard work for the entire season had paid off and came to fruition,” Hart noted. “We like to go to other Bands in America competitions to get to see where we rank and stack up against other bands that we may face in the Grand Nationals.”
Band boosters and fundraisers help raise funds to cover the travel, accommodations and other requirements needed to send the band on trips such as this.
“I’m sure everyone in the county is aware of Jag Day that is our largest fundraiser to help support trips like this,” said Hart. “There’s a lot of financial commitment and we do most of it through fundraising. The kids work tirelessly during the year on those fundraisers to get to go and have these opportunities to compete nationally.”
BOA is not the only significant appearance that the “Pride of DeSoto Central” has been involved in. This past March, the band marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, becoming the first Mississippi band to take part in that event.
The 2015 band appeared in the Bandmasters Championships at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
All of it has not only showcased their talent, but the talent level found in all of DeSoto County schools.
“There’s a lot of talent in this county alone in the musical arts and I think it speaks volumes about all the great teaching that we have here in DeSoto County and the great kids that we have,” Hart noted. “It’s a big thing for us to do this for our state and for our community.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.