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Halftime Heroes: Johnson band members on same page
Johnson High drum major Noah Coleman leads the band onto the field at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium prior to the battle of Oakwood with rival West Hall on Aug. 26.

Halftime Heroes

Look for a spotlight on Hall County area high school marching bands to be featured each Friday this fall.

Previous stories:

Flowery Branch band drums up passion

West Hall’s Band of Silver celebrates home, family

North Hall marching band thrives in new performing arts center

Director leads Riverside Military Academy band into new era

Listen to D.I. Brunson, band director at Johnson High School, and a number of his students, and much the same thread is heard — it could be called singing from the same page.

The band is a family. All groups at the school — band, football team and cheerleaders — support the others. The leadership team makes sure band members know what is happening.

Multiple people at different places on the field can be heard counting steps as members march on the field.

That’s common, said senior Caitlin Lee, brass captain for two years.

She explained the more senior members count for sections — trumpets, tubas, percussion, etc. — early in the band year and those voices become softer as the year goes on. By mid-year, leaders in the groups are still counting, but in soft tones that can’t be heard off the field, she said.

Lee has been playing the trumpet for six years — since the sixth grade. She has been the trumpet section leader for three years. She also plays in the concert band.

Why put in that kind of time — including much standing around during the summer and early part of fall practice as different parts of the band practice different parts of the show?

“You can devote your time to something that means something, I guess, instead of sitting on the couch,” she said

Her father was a trumpet player and suggested she try it. “I really liked it,” she said.

Lee would like to be in the band in college, but she’s not interested in it as a career.

“It’s hard work,” she declared.

Drum majors usually are seniors, but Johnson has a junior and sophomore. Jali Hoehn is a junior and plays clarinet. Noah Coleman is a sophomore and plays alto sax. Both have been in the band since sixth grade

Both said they just decided to try out in the spring despite being relatively young in the band.

They both said they like the position. “I like being able to help everybody,” Hoehn said. “You see the big picture (as drum major),” Coleman added.

Jali added that as drum major she sees the whole band — not just the clarinets. If different sections have problems with rhythm, she said, “I can help with that.”

“We’re a big family, and we’re a big team,” she said. She talked about band camp — 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for two weeks early in the summer.

“You come together and basically relearn everything,” she said.

Both plan to continue with music in college, and Hoehn said that might be her major.

Brunson said the band has about 150 members. He said music supports all learning in school and research shows that.

“The hardest culture to establish is to practice on their own,” Brunson said.

However, the director also noted, “You get a taste of success and you want to work that much harder,” which leads to practicing outside of the band work.

Brunson said the Dungeon on Fridays “is fully rounded” with all the groups involved — band, cheerleaders and football players — pulling together.

“The best part is everything coming together,” he said.

The band show for the year is “Royals” — music about or “by” royalty. Brunson said the term royalty “is used loosely.”

He said the show includes “Music for the Royal Fireworks” by Handel, the “Game of Thrones” theme, “Castle On A Cloud” from Les Miserables, “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen, “Freedom” by Beyonce, “Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King, and “Royals” by Lorde.

He said he has a list of potential themes for shows, all borrowed from other directors or bands.

Brunson said he thinks about the strengths and weaknesses of the band when considering music.

Brunson is a Gainesville High School graduate. He is in his fourth year at Johnson. He said he came home from Houston County.

Geovanni Gonzalez wiped sweat away while waiting for his section to be called upon. He is a junior percussionist who changed instruments as a sophomore because the band “needed more percussionists.” He played saxophone in the eighth and ninth grades.

The heat and the work are “worth it once you’re at the game and you hear people cheering you on,” he said.