Christmas Concert set for December 12
With only four months at Pocahontas County High School under his belt, band director Bob Mann is walking on air with excitement for the season the Pride of Pocahontas Warrior Band has had so far.
The band performed at five competitions this year, including the Atlantic Coast Championship held in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
At each competition, the band and color guard were very successful and brought home several trophies. The best showing was at the West Virginia Chapter Championships at Greenbrier East High School.
“We cleaned house,” Mann said. “We got first place in every caption.”
Next came the ACCs. It was the first time Pocahontas County High School was invited to compete on this level.
“It really was the best performance of the season,” Mann said. “This was the Division 1A national championship. There were about forty bands total that were on the TOB [Tournament of Bands] rankings. At this event, there were about twenty-five. We were right there in the middle. Just the fact that we made it there was a big deal. It is a privilege and an honor just to be invited to go, so it was pretty cool. I’m pretty proud of that.”
The band didn’t come out on top, but Mann did – in a way.
“I actually won the favorite band director award,” he said. “What it was, there were plastic jars set up and the band boosters at that local school simply had a sign there that said, ‘Please donate to your favorite band director.’ It was really touching because all the kids and the parents got together and they stuffed that jar. It was really, really nice.”
Mann won a gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse and the admiration of volunteers who were amazed by the amount of donations in his jar.
“The band booster volunteer that was helping there asked, ‘What’s your secret?’” Mann recalled. “I told them, ‘these kids haven’t had this opportunity to come here before, and I’m taking the kids to Hershey Park later.’”
It is a feat for any band to have such a successful year but when you add to the mix a brand new band director and a thrown together show, it’s even more amazing.
Mann was hired by the board of education in late July and held band camp a week later.
“I had to scramble to do it,” he said. “I picked out a show and it is something that I always wanted to do. It was simply a Beatles show. I’m a fan and it’s actually a show that a lot of people can relate to and they can enjoy. One of my biggest blessings has been Rick McLaughlin. He helped out quite a bit.”
While most band directors have a field show selected and drawn months prior to band camp, Mann and McLaughlin created the show at camp.
“He and I stayed up all night,” Mann said. “We would set the drill for the first tune one day and then write the drill for the second tune at night, then sleep for two hours while supervising students. I didn’t have any discipline problems. The kids were fantastic.”
Mann said the show came together through hard work during band camp and lots of after-school practices, something the students were surprisingly willing to do.
“The kids were so receptive to after-school practices,” he said. “They were united as a group to work on the show. It was really quite awesome. I have some great leaders amongst our seniors.”
Mann was also able to work with coaches to make sure that students participating in band and sports were able to split their after-school time.
“One of the best things about Pocahontas County is that we have students that want to participate in multiple sports,” he said. “They want to be in band, football, cheerleading. We also have coaches that will accommodate us. That was very helpful throughout the year because when we needed to prepare to be successful at a show, I called up these coaches and worked it out.”
The band lost numbers and was down to 25 students, but Mann hopes the numbers will double by next year.
“We’re a small group but we’re a very quality group also,” he said. “Even though we’ll unfortunately graduate seniors, if we bring in high schoolers that want to get back in the action again and then add another twenty [from the middle schools], our band will double in size next year. We could see a forty piece band next year if everything goes according to plan.”
With the marching season finished, Mann is already tossing around ideas for next year’s show.
“Usually show planning starts in January if you do it right,” he said. “I like being innovative and there’s a couple ideas for a show I have. One of them is actually ‘All Roads Lead to Oz.’ It’s a really theatrical show. It’s really, really cool, using the three renditions of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, the first one with Judy Garland, The Wiz and the music from Wicked [the Broadway musical]. I’ve seen other bands do a version of it and it’s a really exciting show. It’s something that has the symphonic potential to be successful at competition, but also to the wide audience – our community, our football fans – it is also a good show, very entertaining.”
Other ideas include Motown and Heartbreak in the 80s songs.
“The most successful Tournament of Band shows often incorporate a theme with the music,” he said. “Those are ideas, but right now, I’m really leaning toward the Wizard of Oz. I think it would be fun. I’ve kind of bounced the idea off some of the kids and they were like, ‘yes, let’s do it!’ If we have the numbers we’re looking at, then we will have a massive amount of sound going on. I think it will be pretty awesome.”
For now, Mann is focused on the Christmas concert, featuring the concert band, jazz band and choir. The show is set for Thursday, December 12, at 6 p.m. at the PCHS auditorium.
Mann sees the concert as a way for the band to give back to the community that has given so much to it this year.
“[They] helped pay for our trip to the ACCs,” he said. “It was so amazing that in just three or four days this program raised three thousand dollars, just through private donations, community businesses and parents getting donations. It is just amazing. As a type of admission to the concert, we decided to do a canned food drive. Just for anybody that is willing and able. It’s not a requirement to get into the concert, but just at the door, bring in some canned food items and we’ll donate to a local food bank.”
McLaughlin plans to also have a canned food drive at the MMS and Marlinton Elementary School Christmas shows.
Mann, who is an alum of PCHS and the Warrior Band, said he is amazed at the outpouring of support from the community and is grateful on behalf of the students.
“I do want everyone to know that I’m so impressed with the support this community has given our band program,” he said. “Without the community, we could not have done what we have done this year. The board of education has helped us out with funding our program. Fundraising – people buying from the band have helped us out. The ACCs is such a huge deal and I know that is something the kids are proud of, and I’ve had many, many students that have told me – even these seniors – that is the highlight of their band career.”
With such a successful four months behind him, Mann can’t wait to see what the next four (or more) months have in store.
“It’s been a wonderful ride this year and we’re just getting started, too,” he said. “We’ve got the rest of the season. I’m actually kind of excited because Rick and I put the show together in a week. Just imagine what we can do with more time.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org