Betsy Band hopes to continue championship tradition

Published 9:44 am Thursday, October 30, 2014

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The Elizabethton High School Betsy Band is hoping to continue its tradition of bringing home the championship as members prepare to travel to the state competition this Saturday to defend their title.
The Betsy Band will be performing its show “To Build a Wall” at Independence High School in Thompsons Station. The ultimate goal for the band is bring home the state championship for the fourth time in five years.
The band won the championship in 2013, 2012 and 2010. They finished third in 2011 in a particularly tight contest with just 8/10 of a point between them and the first-place finisher.
EHS Band Director Perry Elliott said the state competition is the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and preparation.
“This is always an exciting weekend,” Elliott said. “The planning for the show starts almost the day after the last state competition. It’s our time to see how all the pieces of the puzzle come together. It is definitely exciting and interesting.”
Part of that preparation has included local competitions. The Betsy Band was named grand champion of Science Hill’s Hilltopper Invitational this past Saturday. It also placed first in Class AAA/AAAA for visual and music and first in Class AAAA for percussion, guard and overall performance.
To be prepare for the state competition, Elliott said the band had been in many hours of practice. In addition, the students often took part in individual or small group practices on their own outside of the regular total band rehearsals.
“When you are the defending champion, the expectations are very high that you can defend your title,” Elliott said. “Once you reach the top, everyone is gunning for you. We are the band with the target on our back.”
Elliott said the band is expecting a strong competition this year, since the same cast of characters will be competing for the band title once again. EHS’ main rival, Page High School from Franklin, Tenn., will return, as will many other high schools from around the state.
Elliott said the EHS band has participated in the state competition for eight years. Page High School had won the championship six years in a row in the past, he said.
“It did take us a while to figure out the formula to beat them,” Elliott said. “They really are top drawer, and to be completely honest, they are the odds-on favorite to win this year. Even though we are the band with the target on us, the competition is still there. Now when we go, people say ‘There is Elizabethton’.”
Elliott said he had high expectations for the EHS band and expected them to do well in the competition.
“The question for me is if we will be able to put together the performance the judges want to see under the circumstances that they will have,” he said.
The band members will be faced with an almost 18-hour day on Saturday. They will be leaving from the school at around 5 a.m. to travel five hours to the competition site. Elliott said the group then prepares and warms up for their first performance at 3:15 p.m. If the band places in one of the top 10 spots, they will perform again between 7-9 p.m.
“That means the kids are getting up at around 3 or 4 a.m.,” Elliott said. “We don’t compete for the first time until 3:15 p.m. So, the big thing really is pacing ourselves and being ready mentally.”
The students are encouraged to sleep on the bus on the way to the competition, and quiet-time rules are in effect. Elliott said they are only allowed to listen to music using headphone and no movies are allowed until later in the day.
Once the band arrives at the competition, the students know it is time to get down to business. The preliminary performance will be at 3:15 p.m. and if the band places in one of the top 10 spots they will play again later that night.
“From the time they step off the bus at the competition, they are in competition mode,” Elliott said. “They stay in competition mode until they get back on the bus when it is over.”
Elliott said a “triangle of success” was necessary for the band to have performed as it has.
“The band needs a dedicated parent organization, a dedicated staff and dedicated students,” he explained. “We do have that support.”
Support for the Betsy Band as they prepare for state is growing in the community. Elliott believes that most people expect the band will win because they are returning champions. But, he remains more cautious on any predictions.
“A lot of people think we will win because we have won so many times,” he said. “We’ll see. We can only control what we do. The band scoring is based on someone’s opinion. It is subjective. We have to be so good that we leave no doubt about it in the judges’ mind. That is what we will try to do.”

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