Friday nights under the lights aren’t all about touchdowns and sacks. They’re also about tubas and snares.
For hundreds of local high school students, football season is all about the music. Marion County has eight local high schools that feature a marching band, from smaller ensembles with just a few dozen members to those with nearly 100. No matter the size, they are heard loud and clear. In the following pages, the schools’ band directors share their favorite traditions and what they’re most looking forward to this band season.
PICTURED, LEFT-TO-RIGHT: William Perez, Vanguard • Elizabeth Hoesterey, Trinity Catholic • Tobi Novinger, North Marion • Cameron Herrick, Lake Weir • Brianna Bennett, Belleview • Erik Pedersen, West Port • Zachary Gilligan, Vanguard • Haylee Austin, Forest • Hannah Dreiling, Lake Weir • Crshonne Green, Dunnellon • Gary Chandler, Forest
Lake Weir High School
Michael Jennings, band director
Number of members: Roughly 85
Favorite tradition: Our favorite tradition for games is the entrance onto the field of my drum major. The drum major does a strut onto the field and then a mind-blowing salute with a mace. The audience always goes wild after this is done.
Looking forward to: This coming season, we are most looking forward to our marching band show. We are doing a jazz swing show.
Drum major(s): Victoria Blanchette, clarinet
Fun fact: The band has been very successful over the years, receiving many Superior (grade A) ratings at the Florida Bandmasters Music Performance assessments in Marching, Concert, and Jazz band. The marching band has also performed in national parades in New York, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Philadelphia, Chicago and Florida.
Belleview High School
Ariel Reddick, music director
Established: 1994-1995, when the school first opened
Number of members: 50-60
Favorite tradition: After we win a home game, we “snake” the field by getting in a line and following-the-leader around the field playing drum cadences.
Looking forward to: The band is looking forward to another awesome year of going to festivals and competitions, hosting the annual Diamond Classic winterguard competition and playing some great music!
Drum major(s): Raven Mello, percussion
Fun fact: Many of the members like to form pep bands to support the other sports at the school, such as basketball and volleyball.
Vanguard High School
Shane Bass, band/choir director
Number of members: 70
Favorite tradition: Band socials. The band members will go to a restaurant before every game and just hang out before their call time for the game. This gives the students a chance to bond before a big performance.
Looking forward to: We’re looking forward to continuing to grow our program and traveling to Washington, D.C. over spring break.
Drum major(s): William Perez, trumpet; Zachary Gilligan, sousaphone
Fun fact: As a school with an International Baccalaureate program, we have some of the smartest students in the county. Of the school’s many valedictorians (close to 30 students), three or four of them are band students, who, along with band and school, also participate in other clubs, sports and [also] have jobs.
West Port High School
Scotty Vance, band director
Number of members: 110
Favorite tradition: To WOW the audience, we like to bring “fun times” to the game and pep up the team and crowd.
Looking forward to: We’re looking forward to creating a unique and custom halftime show and seeing the band students grow and be proud of their accomplishments.
Drum major(s): Erik Pedersen, tenor saxophone; Caleb Cuppy, trumpet/baritone; Mackenzie Meiers, alto saxophone
Fun fact: We recently had our band banquet, and this year’s theme was space—anything to do with space, like sci-fi. We had a best costume contest, and one of our couples was dressed as Predator vs. Alien characters and won first place, with a close second by a couple of Star Wars characters (Padme and Anakin). The night was really fun and entertaining.
Trinity Catholic High School
Cassidy Gleaton, band director
Number of members: 55-60
Favorite tradition: We just love playing for our fans and supporting the team!
Looking forward to: We’re looking forward to our halftime show—an exciting decades show featuring music from the ‘60s through 2000s. We will definitely travel somewhere to perform, but our trip hasn’t been announced yet.
Drum major(s): Elizabeth Hoesterey, clarinet; Thomas Larger, French horn
Fun fact: Unlike most schools, many of our students begin playing their instrument in high school. Over a third of the TCHS band started learning their instrument while attending Trinity Catholic. Over the years, the TCHS band has traveled to NYC, Orlando, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Savannah, Ireland and London.
Dunnellon High School
Jason Dobson, band director
Established: The best data I have dates back to 1964, but Dunnellon High is one of the oldest schools in the county.
Number of members: Around 25
Favorite tradition: We love breaking out our rad dance moves to our stands tunes.
Looking forward to: I’m most looking forward to training my very young band to perform to their maximum capacity.
Drum major(s): Tyler Hart, percussion; Yoander Ferrer, tuba
Fun fact: We are planning for a Disney performance this year.
Forest High School
David Jones, band director
Number of members: 75
Favorite tradition: We love playing the Brass Jam at the beginning of the fourth quarter and playing the alma mater for the football team at the end of home games.
Looking forward to: I’m most looking forward to seeing what the students will accomplish this year.
Drum major(s): Ajax McDonell, saxophone; Haylee Austin, flute
Fun fact: We are the oldest band in the state of Florida and will be celebrating our 95th season this year.
North Marion High School
Joseph Lilly, band director
Number of members: 60
Favorite tradition: We love when the band boosters feed us before each game.
Looking forward to: We’re looking forward to a fun marching band show.
Drum major(s): Jordan Tobar and Hannah Dunbar, clarinet
Fun fact: We’re looking for a mature band this year. We only lost two seniors in band.