Picayune bands give holiday concert

Published 4:58 am Sunday, December 6, 2009

With an audience of a hundred or so standing, hands over hearts, Picayune Memorial High School band opened Tuesday’s Christmas Concert with an uplifting version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’

Tim Garrett, Band Director, then spoke briefly, explaining that the bands had only three weeks to prepare for the concert which followed on the heels of the football season. “We haven’t had much time to prepare for this, but I am very proud of the students,” said Garrett.

He continued, pointing out that the band had performed incredibly well this year in spite of having to overcome some very difficult obstacles, receiving an All-Superior Rating at the 2009 Oak Grove Marching Festival and an Overall Superior Rating at the 2009 MHSAA Region V Marching Evaluation.

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What is remarkable about those ratings said Garrett in an earlier interview, was the state of the high school band when he took the position a little over a year ago. The newly-hired band director arrived to find only a handful of students, 23 to be exact, left in the band. Many had dropped the course, frustrated with years of instability in the program with an ever-changing series of band directors — seven within the last four years.

The steady stream of changing band directors with different styles had left the students frustrated and when the band scored a four rating at the state band evaluations in front of thousands of spectators, four being the lowest score possible, most quit.

So when Garrett arrived, along assistant band director Kristina Howard, went to all the students who had dropped the course and encouraged them to try one more time, asking the students to trust him that things could be better.

They did not compete that year, 2008, Garrett said, because he wanted the kids to have the opportunity to bring their skills up to competition levels, while also working to restore their self-esteems that had taken a beating with the previous years’ performances.

This year during the competition, they went from the four rating two years earlier to a one — the highest rating possible.

After giving the students accolades, Garrett retook the podium and as the students looked to him for direction, he started them in the season melody ‘Christmas Holiday.’

‘White Christmas’ and ‘The Thirteen Days of Christmas’ followed.

The students then left the stage and took the center seats in the front while Harvard and a few students rearranged the seating for the junior high band. After a few awkward minutes, the 44-member band finally took their places and under the direction of Harvard played ‘Jingle Bells Forever’ and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.’

The Picayune Beginner Band comprised of sixth graders followed playing ‘Cardiff By The Sea,’ ‘Hot Cross Buns,’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas.’ In all, the concert turned out to be a fun evening of holiday songs, with many students tittering with excitement at the opportunity to perform for an audience.