New uniforms, stadium help Betsy Band build upon tradition

Star Photo/Kayla Carter EHS Band Director Perry Elliott guides students through their routine from the Betsy Band tower at the practice field.

Star Photo/Kayla Carter
EHS Band Director Perry Elliott guides students through their routine from the Betsy Band tower at the practice field.

It’s the week that marks the launch of a new season for the Elizabethton High School Betsy Band. And, it seems “new” is the overall theme this year.

“We’ve got new uniforms and a new stadium,” EHS Band Director Perry Elliott told the students during band camp Wednesday. “It’s a new era.”

While it seems like times are a changing, Elliott said that the band’s new uniforms will be a throwback to the original Betsy Band look before 1938.

“The pre-1938 look was a white pant, black jacket and orange trim,” he said. “That’s what we will be wearing. There’s some tradition still wrapped up in all the changes.”

Elliott has plans to incorporate a new tradition into the band’s routine. When the band enters the stadium during a game, Elliott hopes to have them perform a pre-game show.

“We’ve never really had a ceremony where we introduce the team on the field,” Elliott said. “We are going to try to do that this year.”

Much like the students involved in the Betsy Band, Tyler Shaw, who coaches percussion, thought tradition and innovation work well together.

“Logistically, change is going to be a big plus for the band,” Shaw said. “This band is very rich in tradition. We are moving forward, but not forgetting the past. We’re just trying to build upon it. We’ll have a more modern look, but we’re still the Betsy Band.”

All of the change only adds to the excitement for the freshman joining the band this year.

“It’s great to come in when we are getting all the new stuff,” said freshman Jazmyne Turner.

Other freshman have found an unexpected sense of support from their peers.

“The upperclassmen have really been super helpful,” said freshman Malena Pierce.

Turner said she found exactly what she was looking for by joining the band. Considering the Besty Band to be a high-caliber marching band, Turner expected a certain level of discipline to be involved.

“I like the challenges that camp puts us through,” Turner said. “I don’t want it to be too easy.”

Elliott described this year’s performance as an attention grabber.

“This year’s show is titled ‘Quiet on the Set,’” Elliott said. “It’s about making a movie. From the beginning of the show to the end, it’s all about having fun.”

This is the performance the band will showcase throughout the season, Elliott said.

“We are using music from the Broadway musical ‘City of Angels,’ which was written by a guy named Cy Coleman. He’s a jazz composer from the 30s and 40s. It’s big band style jazz. It’s real different.”

Again tradition can be found in what some might call new to the band this year.

“We haven’t played jazz in a long time,” Elliott said. “Since we’re going into the new stadium, I wanted something totally different. I wanted something that really popped.”

The premier will be held on Friday, which is the last day of camp, and the public is invited. It will start at 8 p.m. and serve as the band camp finale.

“We are trying to make a little progression every day and get a little bit better,” Elliott said. “Overall, we want them to take ownership of something that is bigger than themselves. We try to teach them to work collectively toward one goal.”

There is no doubt that the students hope to tack on the 2015 state championship banner on the stand at their practice field with the new show.

“We started with a bang my freshman year,” said senior Abby Cornett. “That was my favorite show and I think this one is going to be even better than that one.”

A new competition was also added to the band’s agenda this year. The Betsy Band will complete alongside two other elite Tennessee marching bands — Science Hill and Dobyns Bennett.

Cornett looks forward to getting a glimpse of what it’s like to compete at the 15th annual Western Carolina Tournament of Champions competition, which is set for Oct. 17.

“It’s a really difficult competition,” Cornett said. “It’s our goal to at least make the top 10.”

Elliott was already proud of the growth, dedication and passion students displayed this week.

“This is the most fund I’ve had in the past 37 years of going to band camps,” he said to the students. “I never get to graduate.”

While winning is one everyone’s mind, Cornett offered her team a better idea to focus on.

“Although our goal is to try to win as much as we can, it’s also to do the best that we can personally,” she said. “Even if we don’t win, we know we did the best we could. We will push ourselves to a certain level and we will be as great as we can be. ”

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