By Anna Grace Usery
When the Oxford High School football team exits the field for halftime, a new experience marches out into the Friday night lights to present an enchanting storytelling experience.
When the Oxford High School band emerges, 140 plus members strong, those in the crowd know to pay attention. The band embodies the style of a Drum Corps International organization, and with 80 horns, 25 percussionists, 36 guard members, they are a force to be reckoned with for a few short minutes on the field.
This year’s show is called “The Temptress”, director of bands Mel Morse said.
“The band is tempted throughout the show by the color guard—The Temptress—and you get the sense the band is fighting the urge to relent,” he said.
The four-movement show has a Middle Eastern-feel to it, Morse said, in the context of music, dance, drill choice and props. Congas, timables, tambourines and other “sell the image” and lure those in the stands further and further into the Arabian feel. A few of the props include a backdrop desert scene that complement the faces of the members of the colorguard, painted to embody a scaly look. When the show ends, players wrap around five large, 6 ft. snake baskets in a trance-like state.
The band ultimately realizes it has no control under the spell of The Temptress and finally relents under her spell as the members chant, “I am yours.”
Before uniforms are suited and notes dance beautifully inside the stadium on Friday nights, students spend time in rigorous preparation. Laboring in the hot summer sun turning dots and symbols on a page into music and perfecting drill when school is yet to be in session may not sound like the ideal extracurricular activity, but two Oxford High School band members say it’s all part of the experience.
Vasilios Tidwell is a senior tuba player and drum major. He said there’s always the stress of preparing for a new show, but the band’s level of confidence for success this year is exceptionally high.
“(As drum major) I definitely made my mistakes in the rehearsals leading up to the performance, but that’s how we prepare,” he said. “We try new things and learn from them. And that’s our goal for competitions; Of course we want to score well, but I think the most important goal is just being the best we can be.”
As the band follows his lead, Tidwell said it’s an emotional experience knowing he’s facilitating a cohesive and concise musical unit.
“My favorite parts of the show are always the big musical hits because I just get to put more emotion into my conducting,” he said. “It feels amazing knowing that all of us as an ensemble are making the music.”
Charlie Torrent, a mellophone player, says the hard work each member puts in during the summer and in each show is all in preparation for competitions.
“Our collective goal is to place as high as possible and make it to championships,” he said.
Morse said his teaching philosophy is simple: “If we work hard and we improve every day, the outcome will take care of itself. Be the best version of you today.”
Morse was also sure to point out his respect and gratitude for his staff and the Oxford School District administration.
Aaron Bailey is in charge of the visual elements of the show, Jessica Roebuck assists the color guard and Brenon Eaton is the percussion assistant.
“Much of this wouldn’t be possible without their contributions,” he said. “Students are being provided this opportunity with (the school district’s) help, resource wise, and the parent support is fantastic.”
The OHS band travels to several competitions this fall, including the Mississippi Invitational, the Germantown State Championship and the Holly Springs High School Marching Competition.