Lowcountry marching dynasty

Summerville Band's finals performance (Courtesy: John Lindroth Photography)

By Justin

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- For more than five years, the Wando High School marching band has been a dominate competitive force in South Carolina.

Its legacy of excellence continued on Saturday night, as Wando claimed its seventh consecutive 5A state marching band title.

The marching competition was split into a preliminary and finals competition at South Carolina State University's football stadium in Orangeburg. Also representing the Lowcountry were marching bands from Summerville, Fort Dorchester, and Stratford high schools. The top eight bands from the prelims were invited back to compete in the nighttime finals portion of the competition. The second highest placing school from the Lowcountry{}was Summerville. It placed 5th overall.

In addition to Wando appearing in South Carolina marching band competitions, the school also has taken its talents across state lines to compete in Bands of America (BOA) competitions.

During the Atlanta Super BOA Regional at the Georgia Dome on October 29, Wando placed 3rd in class 4A, and 6th overall. Back in 2009, Wando competed at the BOA Grand Nationals in Indianapolis where the school made the finals.

Later this week, Wando will once again travel to Indianapolis to compete at BOA Grand Nationals for the second time. You can follow{}Wando's progress at @BandsofWando on Twitter.

Over the past 13 years, Scott Rush has served as the Director of Bands at Wando. Rush's goal has been{}to give students a lifelong understanding and appreciation for quality music and music making.

"Wando has always been known for concert band," said Rush. "Several years ago we decided to make a commitment toward our marching band."

Rush credits the army of band parents that come together for much of the success the band has experienced.{}

When asked what Rush's expectations for Wando going into this weekend's BOA Nationals he replied,"Going to tell the students to do their best, and try and give an emotional, musical and artistic performance that speaks to the audience."

Generally high school marching shows are around{}seven minutes long. This year, Wando's show{}is entitled Daedalus and Icarus, and{}is based around the Greek mythology of the Minotaur and the labyrinth.

The band's Communications Chair Tom Thompson says the directors are already planning next year's show, and the announcement will be made in the spring.

Associate Band Director Jeff Handel is in his first year at Wando, and is focused on teaching percussion and jazz band. Handel says he has enjoyed working with the band so far, because it runs like a "well oiled machine."

"Wando stands out for me, just because the focus of the entire staff, and everything is really well planned out," said Handel. "There is not a lot of time wasted at rehearsals, by the students or staff."

Handel says it takes months of hard work for students to learn and perfect a marching band show. He says students at Wando have one full week of band camp during the{}Summer, and practice{}after{}school three days a week.{}{}{}

Marching band show season typically stretches from late September to early November. While high school marching band can be demanding, those involved say it is also a rewarding activity. Handel says one of the things he enjoys about Wando is that it not just about marching, but creating good musicians.

"Before the show{}Saturday night, the directors told the students it not all about the trophy. If you guys have the best show you can, that is all that really matters," explained Handel.

Handel says now that marching band season has almost come to an end, he will be working hard on Wando's{}April 26th percussion and jazz band concert.

"The concert has become one of the flagships of our program, and is a collaborative effort with the art department," said Handel.

In addition to concerts like this one, Wando's concert band season also includes going to festivals devoted to symphonic/concert band and jazz band. In past years Wando has taken part in{}the Midwest International Band Clinic and a band festival hosted by Disney in Orlando.

Also, during concert season many students compete individually on behalf of their school by trying out for honor bands on the county, region, and state level.