Friday, August 14, 2015

TOP STORY >> Two school bands become one

Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School Marching Band director Ben Light is ready for the challenge of blending two different high school marching styles into something unique this school year.
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School Marching Band director Ben Light is working hard with his assistants to make the city’s two different high school bands blend into one.

This school year, as part of the developing new school district, the Jacksonville High School and the North Pulaski High School marching bands were consolidated. Each had their own style.

The North Pulaski band was known for its corps style.

“It had a very strong tradition of being a competitive band. It had a lot of structure and discipline — militaristic,” Light said.

The Jacksonville band was the Juke Box Band.

“It was a historically black colleges and universities show band. It had a looser structure and was crowd pleasing with a high entertainment value,” Light said.

“We are pulling together the strongest qualities of both bands. North Pulaski’s polished musical excellence and Jacksonville’s high energy, high entertainment. It will be the best of both worlds. It will be a unique style; crisp, clean lines and a lot of fun to watch and listen to,” Light said.

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band will have new colors, blue and silver. Light said he chose the opposite of red and gold, so no one’s school colors are left out.

The band directors are working to design a uniform. The first performance will be Friday, Sept. 4 during Jacksonville’s first football game.

Light will be teaching band at Jacksonville High School in the morning, at North Pulaski High School in the afternoon and at Jacksonville Middle School (on the old Northwood Middle School campus) later in the day.

Helping Light with the transition are high school band assistant Ashley Higginbotham and Robert Fellows at Jacksonville Middle School.

Light said the Pulaski County Special School District had been supportive in making the Jacksonville-North Pulaski band work.

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski band has 50 students, a significant decline from last year. Light said many North Pulaski High School students were lost to Sylvan Hills High School when the school district boundary lines were re-drawn. He was the North Pulaski band director and said its band had 75 students during the 2014-15 school year.

Light was unsure of Jacksonville’s band numbers but said that the school has also seen a decline in students.

However, he is optimistic. Jacksonville Middle School has over 200 band students, and 160 are sixth graders.

“The future is very bright; so many are starting out in the lower grade levels,” Light said.

This year, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band’s show is “iBand.” Light said it is very technology-themed, like a live concert.

Band students will be learning and adding more music as the football season progresses.

The show has all original compositions. It has all new current pop music people will recognize from the radio.

Summer band camp was held two weeks ago. Light said it went very well. He was inspired that the Jacksonville and North Pulaski high school students came together so quickly. It gave the Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band an identity.

North Pulaski High School 11th-grader Sarah Walker said, “At first, I thought it was going to be rough. But I made friends and hope the year goes smooth as planned and we don’t have any conflicts.”

Walker said the two different marching band styles will allow students to get themselves out there and perform at their best. She said they will learn new music that they know as teenagers.

“It’ll give us some ‘oomph’ as a new school district,” Walker said.

A Jacksonville Middle School band camp was held for the first time in many years. Light said there was a good turnout.

 A band parents meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17 in the Jacksonville Middle School band room (the Northwood campus)

The primary goals are to elect officers for the new school year, review and vote upon proposed changes to band booster by-laws and a new membership fee. The booster club is way for the community to support the band.

 During October, several marching contests will be held on Saturdays. This is something new for former Jacksonville High School band students. The contests are open for the public to watch.

 Jacksonville-North Pulaski Marching Band has a new website at It also has a Facebook page.