There are more participants in Halls High School Marching Band than ever this year. A total of 137 students, up from 113 last year, took the field at halftime and competitions alike. Several of those, including eight in the color guard, were 8th graders from Halls Middle School next door to Halls High.
Director Eric Baumgardner says the band finished third place at the first competition of the year, and brought home grand championships from the next two. This past Saturday, they came in ninth in the MTSU Contest of Champions, which draws the best bands in the state, plus many from out of state.
But it’s not the sheer numbers that contributed to the band’s success. While numbers are a good problem to have, at first the band’s growth was a challenge to overcome.
“I think we had a little slower start, and it wasn’t for a lack of effort,” Baumgardner said. “With 8th graders plus freshmen, we had 54 first-time marchers. They were really nervous at our first contest. Since then, it has been steady growth every day. This group has really come together.”
Baumgardner was full of praise and thanks for all who contributed to the band’s success, from Beaver Dam Baptist Church for providing extra parking so the band could practice in the school parking lot, to parents and band boosters who built scenery, chaperoned, and more, to Tindell’s in Halls for providing a truck to haul the band’s big trailer.
“It literally is an army of parents,” he said.
He also thanked school administration, his assistant Ashley Waller, and HMS band director Tiffany Kimbro.
This year’s show was titled “Arise: Rise of the Machines,” and focuses on the idea of artificial intelligence. Baumgardner said competition judges told him this was the best they’d ever heard the Halls band. He said the percussion section is outstanding this year and praised the color guard as “the best it has looked in years.”
“That’s no reflection on years past, but I just think this group has improved so much, and all those 8th graders bode well for the future.”
Drum majors Kevin Clupper and Gracie Cremeans played pivotal roles in keeping the band performing well.
“We expect a lot of them, and those two have really risen to the challenge,” Baumgardner said.
Band captain Emily Merritt, also a key soloist on the mellophone throughout the show, earned accolades, too.
“Emily is so involved as far as the solos and has done a great job of checking in and keeping the band on task on those days that we need it,” he said.
But the whole ensemble has gone above and beyond.
“In the band, everybody’s got to participate,” Baumgardner said. “There’s no first team, no second team. They’re all on the field at the same time. We have all those ability levels that have to rise up and get there together. That’s been the awesome thing this year especially. We love to have as many people as want to be in there, but everybody has to buy in.”