Mississippi Lions All-State Band looks to defend international title

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Mississippi Lions All-State Band, comprised of the best high school musicians in the state, is headed to Chicago to defend its title as last year’s champion of the International Lions Parade.

“We are excited for the opportunity. Never has anyone mentioned winning the competition, we are just focused on growing as musicians and taking in the overall experience,” Lions Band Director Jeff Cannon of Pearl said.

The band had only 10 days to prepare for the International Lions Parade, marching the roads within Pearl River Community College as they fine-tuned their performance for the competition.

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“These players are the cream of the crop. They made all the adjustments with ease and showed great professionalism throughout our training,” Cannon said.

Every day the band members would wake up at 6 a.m., go through marching rehearsals for two hours, concert rehearsal for another two hours, conduct a lobby show and then practice two other marching rehearsal in the afternoon.

Members of the Mississippi Lions came from different corners of the Magnolia state, comprised of 143 students from 55 schools, including first-year Lion Rebecca Robin who plays clarinet and attends Picayune Memorial High School.

“The benefits these kids get aren’t from winning the competition, it’s from the exposure they get and the overall experience,” Cannon said.

Some participants in the Mississippi Lions could receive a college scholarship. All of them are introduced to cultural and educational experiences they can’t get in the classroom, Cannon said.

Because the band is the only all-state band in the country that doesn’t pay the staff more than expenses, Cannon said it is all a labor of love to teach and help these kids grow as individuals and musicians.

Saturday, the band and color guard will march through downtown Chicago, demonstrating the skills they learned over the past two weeks. The band returns home July 5.

Although they are going to Chicago for the competition, the band members will do much more.

The Lions of Mississippi and individual clubs sponsored a majority of the cost associated with the trip, which includes attending some Broadway-type shows, a trip to Six Flags and a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

“We are all ready to have a good time and give it our all,” Cannon said.