High School Bands perform during A-State Band Day

By Krishnan Collins
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – High schools from across the Delta traveled to Arkansas State University on Sept. 21 for A-State Band Day. 

 The event provided an opportunity for high school bands to get a taste of what the next level of band is truly like. For some band members, the experience transcended their everyday high school routine. 

 “I think it’s a wonderful experience,” Margaret Teeling, band director of St. Joseph School in Conway, said. “We don’t have a football team. So, we just do basketball. That means my students get to come out here and experience what it’s like to play with a huge band.”

Since Band St. Joseph Band members do not have the opportunity to participate in a marching band, participating in A-State Band Day presents a new challenges the students.

   “Well, our high school band is a lot smaller than the college band,” Teeling said. “This is a different experience for them. College band has a lot more freedom than high school band does and I think it’s great for them to have that experience.”

   That opportunity to march means everything to St. Joseph students. Sid Davenport, a ninth grade percussion student from St. Joseph, attended his second Band Day at A-State. He last came to Jonesboro for the event as a seventh grader.

   “I look forward to the opportunity to march,” Davenport said. “Our school is so small that we don’t really get a chance to march. My first time was difficult.”

   A-State Band Day’s annual event brings students into a fast-paced afternoon of rehearsing, playing and enjoying a college game day.  

   Members of The Sound of the Natural State, the university’s band, coached the high school students and gave pointers on how to perform on a football field. The intense rehearsal prepped everyone in attendance for the halftime show. 

   Steven Riley, director of athletic bands and assistant director of bands at A-State, explained the importance of the fast-paced rehearsal. 

   “At halftime, they will all be on the field with us,” Riley said. “That’s why we got to get this rehearsal in beforehand. It’s a lot of extra people.” 

   Riley noted this was not everyone’s first band day appearance. Whether returning A-State band members or returning high school band students, some people knew ahead of time what the day entailed. 

   Dalton Austin, band director at Osceola High School, returned to his alma mater in a different role. Austin experienced band day as a member of the A-State band; now the 22-year-old teacher decided to give his students a valuable experience in his first year of teaching.

   “I’d love for my students to get involved in band after high school,” Austin said. “I want them to know they do have a place in music after high school. I think this is a great event for that.”

   Austin knows he cannot teach his students everything there is to know about band. 

   “I hope they learn that they can perform after high school,” he said. “I hope they learn things that they might not have learned from me. In high school you’re usually competing against area bands. In college it is more of an entertainment thing. I think it’s a lot more fun.” 

   Gregory Brown, one of Austin’s students, attended his second band day. Brown liked the social aspect of the event. Brown plans to be in band wherever he attends college. 

   “Band day could help me know what it’s like to march on the field in front of everybody and calm my nerves,” Brown said. “I would fight for band.”

   The Osceola student specializes in trombone but also plays some other instruments on the side. Band day gave students an opportunity to meet new people from all over the state. 

   “I look forward to meeting new people,” Brown said. “Last year was really fun and collaborative.”

   After rehearsal, both The Sound and high school students took a well deserved break. Visiting schools received black Band Day themed shirts to match the color pattern planned for Centennial Bank Stadium at the A-State Red Wolves’ football game.

   The high school band members watched The Sound perform pregame before watching the football game itself. The halftime performance wrapped up the visiting bands’ performance for Band Day and brought the event to a close.

   “There’s nothing like a college game day,” Riley said. “Especially from the perspective of a marching band member. Getting to be on the field performing for thousands and thousands of people is unlike anything else. The camaraderie and the spirit is unparalleled. Giving high school bands that opportunity is something we cherish.”