Halls High School Marching Band director Eric Baumgardner is proud of the band’s recent successes. With second place at the Karns Marching Invitational, a Grand Champion win at the Spirit of the Valley Invitational, plus first and second place section wins, it’s easy to see why.
But he’s also proud of something bigger than the band: the school and community it represents.
“Certain people want to look at the success of the band, and I certainly see our success as part of the Halls community as a whole,” he said. “The contest part is awesome, but I think a very important part of our job is supporting the football team and the other sports teams. Our band is just one small part of team Halls, so what the basketball team, the wrestling team, the golf team is doing, I applaud that as much as what we do.”
The band has two more competitions coming up this month, one at Heritage High and one at MTSU for the Contest of Champions, which Baumgardner called “the unofficial state marching band championship.”
“We are trying to be one of the top one or two AA bands in the state,” he said. “Since I’ve been director, band has done that six out of the eight times we’ve gone. But at the end of the day, our No. 1 job is to every time we perform the show to walk off the field saying, ‘That was the best performance that we’ve done to date.'”
The show this year is called “Mirror, Mirror,” a tribute to the evil queen of “Snow White.” The story is told through original music, props, flags, costuming and coordinated movement.
“When I was in high school, being in band you had just three or four tunes,” said Baumgardner. “The game has changed. It’s really about telling a story in seven and a half minutes, in how we move, sound and balance.”
Baumgardner gave shout-outs to the leaders in this year’s band, starting with senior drum major Britney Hiter, also an All-State clarinet player.
“She is an outstanding performer in indoor drum line, a great marcher, a great musician,” said Baumgardner. “She does a really great job of seeing the field. She’s like a student band director.”
Isabell Garrett is a senior trombone player and band captain, a student Baumgardner calls “a small person with a great, big sound, and a good leader.”
Brass captain Fischer Sexton and loading crew captain Bryce Brasfield ensure that the band’s massive trailer is loaded correctly and unloaded quickly after late nights on the road. Woodwind captain Ben Black is also a great leader, and percussion captain Michelle Edwards leads “one of the largest front end ensembles in East Tennessee.” Amanda Runge-Gold leads “in back with the battery,” said Baumgardner, and color guard captains Genesis Lacoumbe and Amanda Carl are also vital to the band’s success.
Support from parents and the community is important, too. Students and parents put in a lot of time fundraising, building props and just helping out.
“This past weekend I got probably 30 parents helping,” said Baumgardner. “There’s no way we could have done it without my student directors and parents helping. Then on Monday night parents were here working on some changes to our props, and they where there Tuesday night working on it until 9 or 10 p.m.”
Corporate sponsors like Tindell’s, Regal, Food City and Pioneer Heating and Air Conditioning help with the band’s needs, too. And a recent $50,000 donation from Pilot/Flying J will go to buy new uniforms, moving that timeline up by three or four years. The band’s current uniforms have been in service since 2004, and the band had saved $20,000 of the $70,000 it would take to buy replacements.
“It takes a lot to move it forward, and we appreciate all the help,” said Baumgardner. “There’s no bench. We’re all in, all 118 kids on the field, and no second or third string.”