Oak Grove marching band earns first place in state competition

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The Oak Grove High School Marching Band set its sights on being the best band in the state, which it achieved when it brought home the huge first-place trophy.

For the first time, the Warriors were the best Class 6A marching band in the state. And the entire school and community celebrated the success.

“We are just so happy and excited about the state championship,” Oak Grove High School Principal Helen Price said last week. “They had gotten close. Last year, they were second and that was the highest they had been. They went from fourth to second to first.”

OGHS Director of Bands Sharon Laird said the state championship is a credit to the Oak Grove community and the rich heritage of the school.

“To win a 6A State Championship is certainly an accomplishment,” she said. “It’s a testament to our community and the Lamar County School District’s commitment to the arts. I’ve said from the beginning that this gold medal and state champion belongs to everyone who has ever worn an Oak Grove band uniform and every parent who has ever loved a child in band.

“That tradition of excellence dates back to the 1950s when the program was started. So this is just the culmination of all the teachers who have taught these students, the parents who have supported and loved them and it’s just a win for the entire Oak Grove community, past, present and future.”

Laird said the state performance is the culmination of hard work and represents the rewards of the students’ commitment to the group.

“What we talk to the students about all the time – and it really is true – is that we want them to be better for themselves,” she said. “We never focus on winning. We never focus on beating someone else. We always focus on doing your individual best and that group, that collective best. When the process is over, you can be satisfied.”

Laird said the students have changed because of their work and their accomplishment.

“They’ll remember winning and it’s awesome,” she said. “They’ll remember the trophy, the gold medal and the state championship. But the process is what matters. The process is what makes you a better human being. The process teaches all the wonderful things that have led to the gold medal and the state championship. The state championship is evidence of the process and evidence that you did the very best that you could do.”

Laird said the relationships that are made during work as a team toward a goal is priceless.

“The band family that we know and love is one of the special things about it,” she said. “Many of these students will be lifelong friends. Many of them will meet their future spouse in band, if they already haven’t. So it’s a very, very, very, special and meaningful event. And it’s emotional.”

The Oak Grove Band, which has 204 members, performed its show, titled “Trapped,” for the state competition and for halftime at last week’s Oak Grove-Jim Hill football game. The performance included elaborate dances and band movements around props resembling cages.

“There’s a design team that works really year round,” Laird said. “We talk about the educational value and the entertainment value to our audience and the appeal to the potential adjudicators that will see it. All those things combine to create the show, but the predominant consideration for me is that it does have educational value at every level. At the core of what we do is we are music educators. Marching band is so entertaining and incorporates so many aspects of the arts and athletics, but at the core of what we do is music education. So that is my first and foremost focus when we design the show.”

Laird said the Band Boosters are a crucial part of the band’s success.

“If you’re in the band, then your parent is a Band Booster, and grandparents, family and friends,” she said. “There are no membership fees. They come together and volunteer in all areas. We have a very active Band Booster organization and without them, we could not function. They are just fantastic.”

Sponsors for the Oak Grove High School March Band include:

• All Superior Corporate Sponsors: Ben Calhoun State Farm Insurance, Ryan Chevrolet, Jason Wesley with State Farm Insurance, A/C Parts & Equipment, Your Stationery Stop, Dr. Larry Leader, Lamar County Board of Supervisors, Merchants Foodservice, Lewis and Williams Accounting, Raising Canes, Ashley Built, Turtle Creek Laundry, Howard Industries and CW Consulting.

• Gold Corporate Sponsors: Clyde Bryant State Farm Insurance, McDonald's, Maven Farms, Pine Belt Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center (Dr. Rebecca Duff and Kirsten Richardson), Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative and Southern Pipe and Supply.

• Pride Corporate Sponsors: Citizens National Bank, First Southern Bank, John's Discount Drugs, Inman Wealth Management, Saddle Creek Logistics, Re/Max Beth Scharwath, Havard Pest and Collins & Null.