The Neshoba Central High School Marching Band has had a “stellar season,” ranking third and earning the bronze medal in Class 5A at the Mississippi High School Activities Association/Mississippi Bandmasters Association State Marching Championship, its director said.
The Big Blue color guard was ranked second and percussion finished fifth.
“This is the highest the Neshoba Central Band has ever placed in the state competition,” said director Daniel Wade, who couldn’t be more excited. “It’s been a stellar season.”
To qualify for the MHSAA state competition, Neshoba rated all-superior at Region 3 competition that took place in Rocket Stadium.
“This was our 42th consecutive year to earn all-superior at regional,” Wade said.
“I like the fact that you have to qualify for the state competition. There are 32 Class 5A bands in Mississippi but only 10 earned a spot to compete.”
Prior to the state competition, the Big Blue Band was named grand champion, with all superiors, at the Northeast Regional Marching Championship that drew numerous bands from Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.
In addition, the NC Band ranked all-superior at the Pell City Band Festival competition in Pell City, Ala.
The band’s show, Portraits of America, tells the story “of the common man and all the opportunities we have as Americans,” Wade said.
“Yes, we do have problems but America is not broken. We can still decide what we want to make out of our journey through this world.”
Wade chose Norman Rockwell portraits for the show because he was an artist who painted to the common Americans, he said.
He also selected all American music by the late renowned composer Aaron Copland.
“Copland composed the fanfare we heard in the commercial breaks during the Olympics,” Wade said. “He was considered America’s composer. Not many people know who he is but they certainly have heard his music time after time.”
Wade said it was important to select a show that the judges not only liked, but found challenging as well.
“If you have a show that is really, really hard, which ours was, you get credit for that but you have to execute it at a high level as well.”
Wade said there was a competitive atmosphere during each performance. At regionals, the students were eager to see which bands they would compete against at state.
“It’s a fun time for the marching band. Everyone has an opportunity to watch them perform during football games and at competitions,” he said.
Sunny Parkerson, a self-proclaimed “very active sports mom,” can attest to the band’s hard work. She traveled to Pearl to watch the state competition.
“Friday night football just wouldn’t be the same without the band there!” she said. “They play and cheer and get hype for our football team. They support the football team to their fullest the whole time they are in those stands. In all of my years as a sports mom and loving my awesome Big Blue Band, I never really realized that the halftime show is their game. That is their competition!”
Parkerson said she was so glad that she, her two sons and a friend went to cheer on the band students, who are “there every Friday night” to cheer them on in football.
“Next year, we will be sitting in those stands cheering on our Big Blue Band and I strongly encourage anyone that has never been to be there also. Football wouldn’t be the same without our band and the cheerleaders and dance team wouldn’t be able to do what they do without our band. I will proudly ring my bells for those kids any day of the week. They deserve it more than any of us really know,” she said.
Despite all the success the band has seen this school year, Wade said he couldn’t say it has been the best in his 17 years at Neshoba.
“It’s been one that showed the results of our hard work,” he said. “Last year was my favorite because we had to do all this hard work and not have a contest due to the Covid-19 shutdowns. We did all this hard work knowing that these kids would not have a performance opportunity.”
Last year’s band paved the path for our current band to have this successful year.
“They did not leave the band program in shambles. They left the band better than they found it,” Wade said.
Even though this year was special, with all the awards, the praises, pats on the back and social and school media accolades, last year will always be Wade’s favorite.
“The support for this band program, the administration, how we get along with the coaches and staff, everything here is the reason for this success. This is a good place. That whole ‘oneneshoba’ thing is real. It’s manifesting itself in this band hall. It really is. This community and this culture are something else,” he said.
--Story by Debbie Burt Myers