Saturday, November 24, 2012

TOP STORY >> JHS band tight knit and tight on stage

Leader staff writer

Talk to any of the 75 members of the Jacksonville High School Jukebox Band and they will tell you it’s all about being family first and a band second.

It’s a philosophy that band director Darel McField brought with him from Pine Bluff five years ago, and the students have really grabbed hold of it.

That belief really hit home last week when freshman Greg Young’s mom suddenly died. “He was told about around 2 p.m.,” McField said, “and he left school, but was back that evening because he wanted to be with family — the band.”

Young, who plays the marching French horn, said softly on Tuesday night, “They were just there for me. The whole band signed a card and they all let me know they cared. That’s what being a family is all about,” Young said.

Wearing a band T-shirt that said “Work hard/play hard,” said the band is a chance to represent the school in a positive way and show the talent that the school has. He still remembers the first football game he played at with the band. “The crowd was large and cheering for us, more than the football team,” Young said, adding that the band’s philosophy of family first, band second is something that you just have to be in the band to fully appreciate.

McField, affectionately called Mac by the band members, ran the band through a four-hour practice at the high school Tuesday night getting them ready to march in the Thanksgiving Parade in New Orleans. During a break, he said, “We have a special thing going on here. Our band is very diverse, all races and socio-economic levels, and they are all family. We are here for each other emotionally and financially.”

Senior Asia Mason added, “We have nerds, geeks, athletes, all types that might not hang together in school, but in the band we are all together, all family.”

McField, who is proud of the band in so many ways, said its latest accomplishment was getting picked to be in the Thanksgiving parade. “The parade officials picked just 12 out of 550 bands that applied. I think our family attitude was part of the reason we were picked,” he said.

The band left Jacksonville about midnight Wednesday, heading down to Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade in New Orleans. The band is the only Arkansas band that was invited to march and perform during the Bayou Classic events.

“We’ll have Thanksgiving down there as a family,” McField said Tuesday, “and we have a full day of activities planned for Friday. It’ll be fun.”

It’s their second Louisiana trip this month.

The band competed in the in the Carroll High School Battle of the Bands in Monroe on Nov. 3 and brought home the Grand Champion Band trophy with an overall score of 98.9 points. The JHS Jukebox Band grabbed first-place honors in flag line and for drum major. It received a superior rating for feature twirler and for band.

Mason, who switched over to trumpet from clarinet three years ago, loves the band and said its nickname “Jukebox” is perfect. “My interpretation is that it’s because we can play all kinds of music from concert and classical to old school and new school. Like a jukebox we have something for everyone.”

McField said he always gives his bands a nickname and Jukebox just seem to fit this group. The band is so uplifting and the music is something everyone can dance and relate to.” He added that the band is more than a marching band. It is a show band with its own signature style. “There is no one like us in the area,” McField said.

Even though he is known as a band director he made it clear the music is secondary. “All band directors, football coaches need to focus on making the students better people, work on their communication skills and self discipline. We are a family first, we respect each other and help each other become better. When we do that the music takes care of itself.

Senior bass clarinetist Adam Hargis couldn’t agree more. “Mac pushes us, but always in a positive way. I take a lot of what he says to heart. I was raised to always pull myself through the tough times, but Mac put his stamp on it, too. And then I’ve taken it and applied it to the academic side, and I’m getting straight A’s.”

Both Hargis and Mason talk about how everything the band does is turned into a life lesson. “We had a three-hour delay getting to Monroe because of bus problems, and Mac turned it into a life lesson to make us better,” said Adam. Mason added that not only is the band about life lesson, but also having fun. “This band is just so different. When we had that bus problem, instead of complaining or worrying, we made a fun time out of it. We are always learning and having fun.

Sophomore Morgan Lloyd a flutist-turned flag captain, concurred. “Everything we’ve done has been memorable because we are all family, all loyal and there’s never a dull moment.”

But the band isn’t fun and games Mason cautioned, “If you want it, you’ve got to work for it.”