The term “Friday night lights” has become synonymous with high school football — the arena where hometown heroes are born.
However, a large component of the iconic game atmosphere goes largely unnoticed: the marching band.
Stadiums all have sound systems that can blast popular songs through loudspeakers, but the music from the marching band is a beloved and integral part of the American Friday night tradition, for those on and off the field.
“The student section feeds off the band,” Hayden Shedd, a Flowery Branch junior, said.
He is in his third year of marching saxophone with the Flowery Branch High School marching band.
The music also “helps cheer on the football team, especially after we play ‘All I Do Is Win’ and the football players dance to it,” Shedd said.
North Hall senior Natalie Black said, “I love playing for people at the Brickyard (the Trojans’ football stadium).”
“It’s just nice to have a receptive crowd to watch your show every Friday night, which the Darkside (the Flowery Branch student section) … is great about,” Christopher Ash, a junior at Flowery Branch, said.
The halftime show is the moment of glory for the band, where the musicians are able to showcase all their long hours of hard work that started all the way back in the summer at an intensive band camp.
For most schools, band camp is one or two weeks, from sunup to well past sundown.
“It’s quite strenuous given that the most demanding part is at the beginning of the season, but we try to have fun with it,” Ash said.
At North Hall “everyone practices their hardest,” Black said.
Just like any other sport, the members of the band come together and bond over their shared hardships, as they work in the rough Georgia summer heat toward learning music, how to march, and putting the first movements of their show together.
Along with playing music and marching in formation, band members learn “important life lessons,” Flowery Branch band director Dennis Naughton said. “They learn how to put together a product, work as a team, and embrace their differences.”
All those are skills that can be applied for success in the future beyond high school, gained from long hours sacrificed for practice to be the best for the performance.
“What makes it great is after (all the hard work) is going to the game...” Shedd said. “It’s like you’re a puzzle piece … and everyone together makes this picture everyone (in the stands) enjoys.”
For the duration of football season, the band continues to practice hard, “because it’s always somebody’s first time seeing your show,” Ash said.
Through all the times of band camp, long bus rides to games and performing at halftime, lifelong bonds are formed.
“I love being with the people and playing my instrument,” said Black, who plays alto saxophone at North Hall.
The friendships formed playing music go beyond simply a shared experience.
Shedd summed up the experience this way: “Pretty much as soon as you say ‘I’m here to do marching band,’ you’re a part of a family. You’re going to be a part of a family that you will stay with for the next four years, and it’s this bond of being a ‘band kind.’”
This family brings together a larger family including football players, fans, and students alike through their music, uniting people in school spirit: the magic that happens under those Friday night lights.