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All That Jazz

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw High School will get a taste of the Big Easy this year.

The marching band’s 2010 show, "Fat Tuesday," will fill the football stadium with the sounds of Dixieland jazz from New Orleans during home games.

Chris Graham, the band director, said last year's revival of the school's jazz band inspired this year's show.

"We enjoyed it so much that we wanted to share jazz with other students," he said.

And band members are loving it, even if it means putting in 12-hour days to learn the program.

"We go from a swing rhythm to straight. It's challenging, but it's fun,” said Danielle Robinson, a senior drummer. "I'm really excited for it," said Hope Young, a senior saxophone player.

The eighth- through 12th-graders began rehearsals last week.

"It's a lot of fun and a lot of hard work," said Kenzie Confer, an eighth-grader and color guard member.

This year Amanda Riley, the color guard instructor, is making up their dance and flag moves on the fly because the rhythms frequently change and the color guard will pass by fast-moving brass players during the show.

"We have to make sure every move works," Riley said.

And Graham, Nancy Randall, the band instructor at Waccamaw Intermediate and Middle schools, along with her new assistant band teacher, Jordan Patterson, are drilling rhythms into students' heads during indoor rehearsals.

Tapping his baton on the black music stand, Graham establishes a rhythm for the brass section.

When their lips grow weak from the constant practice, they take a break, clean out their instruments and then resume work.

In another room, Patterson coaches the woodwinds, and senior saxophone players work one-on-one with younger students.

Down the hall in the cafeteria, drummers work on their own rhythms, in between gushing about how "awesome" their parts are.

The students all work so hard, Graham said, it's unfortunate that some can't afford to pay their band dues this year.

"We have at least 14 students who are wonderful kids, and they offer a lot to the band, but they can't afford the fees," he said.

Last year, an anonymous donor provided enough money to pay expenses for students who could not afford their dues. The person's only condition was that the students proved they worked over the summer to earn the first $50.

This year, Graham, Riley and Patterson are looking for a way to help the kids again.

"We're looking for about $3,000 for these kids," he said.

Riley is also looking for instruments for middle and intermediate school students whose parents cannot afford the cost of rentals. Instruments purchased with a $20,000 grant four years ago have now made their way up to the high school.

Anyone interested in contributing can call Graham at the high school, 237-9899, or contact the band at waccamawbandboosters.com.

The band will perform "Fat Tuesday" during halftime at home football games on Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Oct. 8, 15 and 29.

It will also compete at Socastee High School on Sept. 25, Wando High School on Oct. 2, and Hartsville High School on Oct. 9.

The Lower State competition is Oct. 23 at West Ashley High School in Charleston. The state competition is the following weekend.

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