KHS band defends title

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The reigning marching band of the year, Kilgore High School retained its title for a second year as the band took home the award during the 2017 East Texas Music Awards Saturday.

After winning the inaugural marching band award last year, KHS band director Cliffton Walker said, a second win means a lot to the students.

“It shows that we have a tremendous amount of support from our family and friends and community,” he continued. “We realize that it’s kind of a popularity vote type of thing, but we like to feel also that these kids are some of the hardest working kids around and they deserve any of the recognition they can get.”

After a morning practice Monday, the band was out on the field at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium later in the evening for a second practice, which will be a regular occurrence during football season.

“We’re out here three hours tonight, blood, sweat and tears, to make sure that we put on the highest quality show that we can Friday nights and prepare for our UIL competition,” Walker said. “And I’ll say this is one of the most consistently hard-working groups that I’ve had since I’ve been here at Kilgore, and they definitely deserve these recognitions. We love our crowds and our support teams because they make us feel like we’re loved and they show us that they know the amount of work and effort these kids put into it.”

Along with the work, Walker said, the students have a camaraderie that he called more warm and positive than any other year.

“The kids genuinely care about each other and they care about putting on a good show and they care about progress, and they’re willing to work with each other to make it happen,” he said.

When the band began its summer practices, Walker called it the “most promising first week of camp” he had experienced.

That excitement has not waned.

“We’ve had fewer frustrating moments, fewer disappointments than I think I’ve ever had in six weeks of working with a group,” he said. “Every day they come out, there’s always something positive going on, there’s improvement on a daily basis. The kids are hungry; they come out here and you always leave a rehearsal feeling like they’ve put everything into it, and you can’t ask for more with a group do teenagers.”

One of two drum majors for the 2017 KHS marching band, Mackenzie Cavanaugh said she was ready to meet the new freshman class because at more than 60 members, it represented the largest class in a long time.

“The freshman class is also, not only is there a whole bunch of them, but they’re all very skilled and talented and hard working, so I was super stoked about getting to work with them,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to what’s in store for us.”

Fellow drum major Terriah Dunn pointed out the band’s sound quality this year, noting more instruments can be heard in the group’s sound than previous years.

“Hopefully as we go in, the sound will progress and we will sound a lot louder than any year,” she said.

There is competition because everyone wants to work and wants a spot on the field, Dunn said.

“As a full band we are very far ahead than what we’ve been in the past,” Cavanaugh said during summer practices. “It’s going to be real exciting to see.”

The full band has more members than the typical year, Walker said, with 143 musicians in 2017. Normally, the band is around the 120-member mark.

Of those students, he said, “There’s not a one of them that I don’t want in there. They’re doing a tremendous job.”

The KHS marching band will compete in the UIL marching competition Oct. 17 in Mt. Pleasant.

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