It must have seemed like a cavernous echo, albeit a joyous one. “Lewisburg. Lewisburg. Lewisburg.”
The name kept being said time and again as the awards were announced at Pearl High School last Saturday night. Finally, the last award, Mississippi High School Activities Association/Mississippi Bandmasters Association 5A state champions, was proclaimed and again, the Lewisburg High School marching band’s was announced as the competition winner.
Not only did Lewisburg win the overall crown for the seventh time in school history, but the band placed first in all of the categories the 13 organizations were judged on during their performance, a rare occurrence in these types of events.
It was a late night for Lewisburg, but well worth it, said head band director Kim Hallmark, in her 11th year at Lewisburg and sixth year as head of the band program.
“We went on at 9:15 p.m. on Saturday night,” Hallmark said. “We didn't have the awards until about 10:30-10:40 p.m.”
The five areas each band is judged on and the areas that Lewisburg finished first in all are: color guard, percussion, general effect, music performance, and visual performance.
"You are taking an entire year and you're performing for a panel of 6-8 human beings,” said Hallmark about the judging. “We had a really great run through on Saturday."
There are 178 members of the Lewisburg band, 38 of which are seniors this year.
"The overall attitude, demeanor and work ethic this year has just stood above all the rest that I've ever experienced here,” Hallmark said.
The championship program was one that not only was musically entertaining, but Hallmark said had a meaningful message to its audience.
The program focuses on Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who has tirelessly worked for more education to women in a country that does not put an emphasis on teaching to girls. Yousafzai is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“’One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world’ was her message,” Hallmark said. “That's how we ended the show."
Marching band programs are not put together overnight. The process for this program went back to February of this year.
"We've been planning since February,” Hallmark explained. “The students received part of the music in May and then we do a couple of summer rehearsals, but not many. We start band camp in the last two weeks in July before school starts."
State evaluations earlier in the month selected the bands that could move on to the state competition last Saturday. A total of 13 made the cut and were in Pearl for the finals.
"We have great kids, we have great parent support and we have incredible support from our administration,” Hallmark said. “When all of those things come together, we have been very blessed with the situation that we have been in."
Assistant band directors are Ben McLemore, Nelson Coile and Paul Morgan. They are supported by parents who do more than cheer from the bleachers. They helped build the props that were part of the performance and help load and unload them for competitions.
"We had three large podiums this year, representative of Malala giving speeches,” said Hallmark. “We gave the vision that we had to the band dads. They set up in some dad's warehouse and they built those props from the ground up."
Lewisburg could be joined by another school from DeSoto County as state champs this weekend as 6A groups compete for their state honors.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.