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Halftime Heroes: West Halls Band of Silver celebrates home, family
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Katy Wilson, director of bands at West Hall High School, instructs students when to play Thursday during band practice at West Hall. This is Wilson's first year directing the school's band. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Halftime heroes

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

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Flowery Branch band drums up passion

If you ask any members of the West Hall High School Band of Silver what the band means to them, they’ll all likely have a similar answer.

“It’s a family,” said drum major Sarah Aldredge, 16. “We’re small, but everyone knows each other. We’re all best friends and we’re all there for each other.”

Band captain Chris Turner agreed.

“My favorite thing is the relationships I’ve built over the years,” said Turner, who plays trombone and has been in the Band of Silver all four years and involved in band for eight years total.

Turner said part of his role as captain is to maintain that sense of family.

“In my eyes, the band captain enforces rules, but also keeps us a family and allows a friendly relationship in the band,” he said.

The band has a new family member this year at the helm, in director Katy Wilson.

The Lawrenceville native went to Brookwood High School, where her father was her band director.

She started this year with West Hall after years with Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville.

“I was at Riverside for six years and kind of helped get the band program started there,” she said. “And I was lucky enough to be able to come here.”

Wilson said she has a “different perspective” coming from a private school.

“While others might be trying to get out of public schools, I couldn’t wait to get into them,” she said. “I’m a product of public school educators. My parents are public school educators, specifically music education. So to be back, kind of home, feels so good.”

That feeling of “home” is a theme echoed in the band’s halftime show this year.

“We’re doing things by Georgia artists, including Ray Charles, James Brown, Phillip Phillips,” Aldredge said. “I’m really excited about it.”

Isaac Hays, 15, said the music is his favorite thing about the band. He’s played instruments since he was 5 years old.

“All the songs are from artists that either lived or were born in Georgia,” Wilson said. “I titled it ‘Home’ after Phillip Phillips’ song ‘Home,’ but also because of the personal significance for me, because this is my new home.”

Wilson said former West Hall band director Ernie Phillips was in the position 28 years before retiring. Her hope is to do another 28 years herself.

Wilson and Aldredge supervised warm-ups during a rehearsal Thursday. The more than 60 band members marched, shouting eight counts, while Wilson watched lines, the straightness of legs, even the angles of feet as they struck the ground.

Wilson said band is not strictly a competitive sport, but there is always a drive to improve.

“We compete with ourselves,” she said. “For every rehearsal and every day to be better than the one before is all we can really ask for.”

Aldredge agreed. She said her hope is for the band to score all 1s in competition — also known as “superior,” or the best score it can earn. The band will compete at Chestatee High School on Oct. 1 and again in Fannin County on Oct. 8.

Turner said good competition performances are one of his personal goals for the year.

“It’s to keep our tradition of superiority and to keep the family we have,” he said.

Wilson said while ratings and scores matter, the most important thing is teamwork and “making good music.”

“We have a real sense of family,” she said. “So as long as this year ends and we’re still family and we’ve made good music, I’d say that’s the best we can ask for.”

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