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Story published: 08-21-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

The JCHS Marching Band kicks off their season with a bang


By Lacy Hilliard

Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

The Pride of Johnson County is kicking off its 2013 marching season with a challenging set and a renewed spirit. Under the direction of Jacob Pitts for the second year, the aspirations of the band and its director continue to grow.

The 2013 Johnson County High School Marching Band set possesses both technically challenging music and meaning. The theme is ‘Love and War- A Cold War Portrait of the 1980’s.’ The music for the show was chosen and arranged by both Director Pitts as well as Robert Jeter – doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky, an East Tennessee State University Alumni and as Director Pitts describes him, “a musical genius.”

This year’s opener is entitled “The Russian Hammer.” It introduces both sides of the love and war conflict. The opener is comprised of a medley that includes “Waiting for the Hammer to Fall” by Queen and “The Russians” by Sting. Sting wrote “The Russians” after he and his college roommate accidentally began receiving Russian children’s programming on their dorm room television. As Sting watched the foreign programming, he began to realize just how similar the Russian way of life was to the American way of life. Because he made this discovery at the time of the Cold War, it was significant and it led him to write the anti-war song, The Russians.

The second song in the set is titled “War.” Comprised of music by Vince Dicola, an American composer that is famed for his work on Rocky IV. The second song in the set symbolizes the conflict and subsequent battle.

The third song is “The Winner.” For Pitts, an avid Back to Future fan, “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis was a perfect choice. Carrying obvious symbolism, the song shows that love prevails over all conflict. Paying homage to the source, a bit of music from Back to the Future can be heard at the end of the third song.

The closer acts as a sort of postlude to the show. “Leningrad” by Billy Joel symbolizes peace after the conflict and acts as a sentimental closing to a show enriched with meaning.

Director Pitts had two goals for this years show; to play something that would be musically challenging but fun and to make sure that the music translates to the audience. Recently, the Pride of Johnson County held a parent preview night in which they played a couple of songs from their set. Judging by the reaction of parents and students, Pitts has accomplished his mission.

Director Pitts is met with his fair share of challenges this year but he’s taking them in stride. Virtually unheard of, the freshman class outnumbers every other participating class in this year’s band. The number of members is small but growing and Director Pitts and Percussion Instructor Adam Berry are doing all they can to nurture the young band and steer them toward success. They have several competitions and festivals planned for the upcoming season including Chilhowie’s Band Fest, a competition in Carol County, as well as a competition in Wytheville. Pitts is also considering a couple of contests in Ashe County. As is tradition, the band will also perform in various local events including The Cranberry Festival and local parades. It is the hope of Director Pitts that by giving his young band these experiences, they will continue to grow both in the caliber of their performance as well as their musicianship.

If you’ve had the privilege of watching the Pride of Johnson County perform, you may have noticed the amazing amount of discipline possessed by the members of the band. Because marching band is rooted in military tradition, discipline is as much a part of the process as music. Director Pitts knows that discipline is about consistency and he also understands the importance of having fun. The students have great respect for their director but it seems that they also think of him as a friend, which is often a difficult balance to achieve when it comes to teenagers. However, Director Pitts seems to have a one-on-one relationship with each student and his commitment carries over to the aspirations of his students.

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