Young East band looks to grow

By SUSAN AMUNDSON,

Though they are small in numbers, East Marion High School’s band is determined to grow. According to Band Director Orlando Ratliff they have about 25 students playing winds and percussion instruments and about 12 dancers and eight auxiliary members who consists of color guards and majorettes.

The band’s program is Re-Mix/Re-Make. The opening song will be “Before I Let Go” by Beyonce, which is a remake from The Maze’s song.

“I do have a young group so I am going to slowly bring them along,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff said he plans to keep working with them so they will be ready for the Gulf Coast Regional Festival Oct. 12 at Gulfport High School. He said last year he took the band to the festival and found out that was the first time the band had been there in seven years.

“I think they will be able to make it. They are young but have a good solid core,” he said.

He said this year he doesn’t have any seniors and only a handful of juniors, but he had a good group move up.

An accident a couple of years ago put a damper on the program when Ratliff broke his knee cap. That year he was unable to have a beginner band program so there is a gap in the program. However he said the band program is showing signs of growth including the beginner band, which has about 20 students.

“That is good for us,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff said he is hoping he can get the interest in the band program to grow. He said with the school being small he knows he will lose some as they get older to athletics and other programs, but he also knows by high school the students coming up in the band program are there because they want to be there, they are invested in it and they want to see the band grow.

“I told the group you realize that we are small, and we have to share one another but you guys (the students) are the ones who sell the program. If you are enjoying it and you tell others to join the band when we are recruiting because of the fun we have in the program, that is going to help the program. That is going to help the numbers.”

Ratliff said is he contemplating doing a small band festival and the band festival at Oak Grove, but he is still undecided. He said with so many young members he does not want to put too much pressure on them.

Pictured Above: The East Marion High School Marching Band leadership team includes, from left, Aaliyah Howard, Mariah Dawkins, Jarvas Williams, Braydon Sistrunk, Jalen Johnson, Jaycee Ryals, Kyla Jenkins and Band Director Orlando Ratliff. | Photo by Susan Amundson