Tuesday, August 5, 2014
As the Jacket Regiment wraps up its first week of band camp, the group has its eyes on the upcoming season.
Chuck Deen, North Augusta High School's director of bands, leads this year's group.
Deen is in his 28th year as a band director and 11th at North Augusta's helm.
He will return third-year drum majors Jason Hays and Blake Sloan.
“This is a really great group,” Deen said. “I think they will get even greater as the season progresses. We seem to have a work ethic and a culture that is here for excellence. The spirit and student leadership is tremendous, and we've got a really cool show planned. There will be lots of kids involved ... I think we're around 184 kids. It's amazing and such a cool thing to turn your head, look over your shoulder and see all of those kids.”
Deen said having so many kids in the program speaks volumes for the school, community and band support. Even during band camp, there are many parents and boosters who bring in and prepare food, help serve and provide any assistance necessary.
It's because of that, Deen said, the program continues to grow year after year.
Deen said his drum majors bring “a lot of great stuff” from behind the podium.
“With it being the third year, they kind of read my mind and know what's expected,” he said. “They know what needs to get done, and they're working to take care of it.”
Hays said the major change for this year's group is the influx of younger students.
“It's definitely a lot harder because of the younger kids having to learn stuff,” he said. “Other than that, it's pretty much the same deal. Last year, our band director wrote the show; and this year, we have people writing it for us. So it's a little more complex and challenging.”
Another change, Hays said, is the fact that there will only be two drum majors.
“The first two years, we've had three drum majors,” he said. “So, it's weird because you have a lot of kids to deal with.”
For his part, Sloan said there haven't been many new challenges.
“I've kind of gotten used to a lot of it,” he said. “It is kind of refreshing to learn the new people in the band. There seems to be more discipline than in previous years.
“Not saying the other years weren't disciplined, but things are really, really good this year. ... The biggest challenge for me is probably going to end up being keeping everything in time, once we finally get everybody on the field with the set and the show.”
Sloan said his main two jobs are to be alert and present to make sure things are running smoothly.
“As long as those things are going well, I guess I'm doing well, too,” he said.
Deen said there is a trust level with his two senior leaders.
If he had to walk across the stadium, or leave for a few moments, the band would be the exact way he left them, he said. That's also a testament to the other levels of leadership throughout the group, he said.
This year's show is called “Suspicious Minds,” and Deen said the band will “explore that simple paranoia that everyone has of looking over their shoulder, wondering what's going to happen next or what did they just see or hear.”
“It's going to be really cool and interesting,” he said. “The kids asked for a darker, thematic show. That's kind of a big trend with a lot of folks. We did it a couple of years ago and were real successful with it, so we're back into that again. The Elvis Presley song ‘Suspicious Minds' is woven in and out of the show. Other selections include Mozart's ‘Requiem.' We also use one of my favorite pieces by Béla Bartók called ‘Allegro Barbaro.'
“We have a solo actress through the show, and she is the suspicious mind. We have portions where the band actually pushes her out of the way, visually, with the formations happening. She looks over her shoulder, and she sees 40 people coming after her. Everyone is going to be able to connect with this, and I think everyone has that paranoia of looking over their shoulder.”
Both Hays and Sloan are excited for this year's show.
“It's going to take a little bit longer than last year to learn,” Hays said. “It's a creepy thing, and we'll just have to see.”
Sloan said he enjoys horror movies and creepy things.
“I'm just excited to see how the drill and the music goes together,” he said. “Then we'll see what the outcome of the show will be.”
The Jacket Regiment's first competition will be Sept. 20 in the Twin City Tournament at Batesburg-Leesville High School.
The band will compete in the Class AAA level, unlike its athletic counterparts, who competed in Class AAAA.
The band also will start Friday nights with two mini-pep rallies in the parking lot and in front of the stadium. Deen said the goal is to help create a more “‘College GameDay'-like atmosphere.”
Later this year, the Jacket Regiment will go to Chicago to participate in The Magnificent Mile holiday parade.
“It's the Saturday before Thanksgiving,” Deen said. “It kicks off the holiday season in Chicago. It's a night parade and an electric parade. We're really excited about that, and it's going to be really cool.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheScottRodgers.