WINNSBORO — Last week was an eventful one for middle school band students. FCHS Band Director Davaron Edwards said middle school students were on the sidelines and in the band room prior to the game so they could get a feel for what went into making music and supporting the Griffins on Friday nights.
Some of the youth attended practice that week, too.
The Griffin Marching Band collaborated with the Keenan Red Raider Band for the national anthem prior to kickoff. They also had an up close look as Fairfield County hosted the S.C. State Marching 101 band.
Edwards hopes this night will be a recruiting tool to help him continue to expand the band. With 55 students, his band has grown 12 percent. This year they have 18 wind instruments, five band managers, 29 auxiliary members including marionettes and color guard, and two drum majors.
This year the band has just six seniors but he said that does not mean it is devoid of leadership. In fact, he had so many de facto leaders who stepped in and did the tasks he requested that he never officially handed out officer ranks to his students.
“They do a good job with ownership of the program and group leadership (so imposing a formal officer hierarchy) was not an issue,” he said.
He has seen a lot of growth in this group since its first competition in Charlotte where they only received an excellent rating and were third out of three bands. They next compete in Atlanta at nationals. At their second competition the band placed third of six bands with an excellent rating. They won best drum major, best dance line, best flag line and best percussion. Their third competition was a 2.8 point loss at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High. At that competition they earned an excellent rating and took home best drum line.
The show this year is themed The Love Connection. Musical selections include material from Earth Wind and Fire, Rick James, The Emotions, Patty LeBelle, and Lil John and the Cyborgs.
For the show Edwards wrote all the drill and about half the music. He estimates he writes 70 to 5 percent of the music his band plays, putting his bachelor of arts degree from Hampton and master’s degree from Winthrop University to good use.
“Were it not for the band I would not be here,” Edwards said. “It gave me an outlet to express myself and provided me an opportunity to attend college.”
Of last year’s graduating seniors who were in band, all are in college except for two.
Those students benefit a lot from band parent support, he said.
“Without our super band parents, I could not do this job,” he said.
The parents help keep the kids supervised, do fund-raisers, provide materials for the season, staff the visitor concession stand at home games (where proceeds go to the band) and chaperon trips. Edwards said that his number of volunteers varies depending on events and work schedules but that they are all in whenever they are at events.
New uniforms are arriving in December and the district is looking into either repairing or replacing worn out instruments. The new uniforms are created with an eye toward improving competition scores. He thanked area business sponsors such as Food Lion, Carolina Cleaners, Sonic and the Roadrunner Cafe.
“At this point the band really needs is even more community support,” Edwards said. “The best way to help grow our band is to encourage children to join. We put in the time and effort but we can’t grow by ourselves.”
He said he’s getting to know more FCHS band alumni and is excited not only by their accomplishments in life but their willingness to give back to the program. To future Griffin alumni, particularly middle school students, he has this message:
“The band will give you the opportunity to meet new people,” Edwards said. “You learn more about music and see different places and push yourself academically and prepare you towards a better life.”