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Gainesville High band tunes up for big performance
Gainesville High School band drummer Martin Sewell practices with the rest of the band as they prepare for their appearance Saturday at the Georgia Dome. - photo by Tom Reed

See video of The Big Red Machine in action.

Gainesville’s running back tandem poses a big threat in the open field.

See our special section devoted to the Class AAA state championship in the print edition only.

Head to The Blitz for full game coverage before and after Saturday’s matchup in the Dome.

For the 163 Gainesville High School musicians, dancers and twirlers in The Big Red Machine, the Class AAA football state championship on Saturday is not just another game, but members of the marching band are trying to think of it that way.

The band’s halftime performance will be televised and broadcasted on two radio stations, said band director Larry Miller.

“We have to think of it as just another show so we don’t freak,” said Gainesville sophomore and clarinetist Mady Wuest. “It’s definitely not every day you get to perform in a huge stadium.”

Miller said like the football team, the band has been practicing since July in hopes that it would get to play at the Georgia Dome on Saturday. He said the band modified its regular halftime show to make it slightly shorter, louder and more television friendly.

The band will perform a rock ‘n’ roll medley featuring songs by AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Twisted Sister, among others.

Students are somewhat nervous, but mostly excited.

“They’re just thrilled to death,” Miller said. “This is one of those things they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, win or lose. We talk a lot about goal setting, hard work and commitment. This is the culmination of all that. It’s like a celebration.”

Gainesville sophomore and baritone player Patrick Kelley said he plans to record the game on television so he can watch it again and again.

“If we win, it will be a game we will want to see for the rest of our lives,” he said.

While performing at the Georgia Dome is a dream come true for some students, Miller said he thinks the magnitude of the opportunity won’t hit most students until they are in their uniforms marching across the field.

“I think they’re going to be overwhelmed when they walk out onto the field and see their faces on the giant scoreboard,” he said.

The band will have a quick practice after performing for players at the elephant walk at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday at Gainesville High School. After the football players board buses, band members will practice before heading to Atlanta themselves.

There will be no pep rally at the high school today, but it is spirit day and students are invited to showcase their school spirit by sporting their best Red Elephant get-ups.

Miller’s band advice, which could also be applied to the football team, is simple.

“This is NOT just another game,” he wrote on the band’s Saturday schedule. “Do what you do, and do it REALLY well.”