Band Day draws record-breaking 500-plus high school students

High school students take the field with the marching band at halftime.

The music department hosted its largest-ever high school Band Day on Sept. 8, with more than 500 high school students in attendance. Participants spent a day immersed in the experience of marching with a Division I collegiate band, including a morning rehearsal and lunch with the NC State Marching Band, tickets to the football game and a half-time performance on the field at Carter-Finley Stadium.

High schoolers practice with the marching band.The high school students arrived at the practice field bright and early on Saturday morning to rehearse with the marching band. Some brought their uniforms, others came in their high school marching band t-shirts, and the color guard was a rainbow of mismatched flags, but all were united in their performance of music from The Incredibles. Some had already settled on their college plans, but many were still considering all of their options, and the ability to participate in marching band was an important factor in the decision.

“I wanted to see how the band experience is on a game day, and see if I want to come to this school,” said Ashleigh Thorpe, a bass clarinetist from Bartlett Yancey High School in Yanceyville. “It’s been great and I thank [NC State] for having it for free, because that helped a whole lot of people out. I hope to come next year.”

In addition to instrumentalists, Band Day is open to students in color guard and majorettes. Current majorette Erin Noble, a junior Nutrition Science major, attended Band Day during her senior year of high school in 2015 and said the experience impacted her decision to attend NC State.

Dr. Garcia talks with high school students at Band Day.“I wasn’t sure if I was coming to NC State yet. It was my number one [choice], but majorettes aren’t too known at a lot of schools and NC State has a really good program,” said Noble. “The band really integrates us as part of the band, so we’re not just the majorettes, we are ‘The Power Sound of the South.’ We’re included in that name. So it was really great to see the community that NC State has here for us.”

A highlight of the Band Day experience for many is the chance to interact with members of the marching band, both in rehearsal and at lunch, and to soak up the energy of game day. Sophomore trombonist Sammy Penninger, a Computer Science major, felt that his decision to attend NC State was influenced by the enthusiasm of everyone he met in the marching band.

“All the members of the band were so excited; they did everything 100 percent and they all had fun,” Penninger said. “The game day atmosphere was great. Seeing so many people at a football game, and when the band marched out on the field – at the time, I didn’t know what it was called, but – ‘The Dirty Shuffle’ was the coolest thing I had ever seen from a marching band. And I was like, ‘Man, I would just love to be a part of this.’ They really made us feel welcome at lunch and it was just a great experience overall.”

Color guard practice.Band Day is an important recruitment tool for the NC State Marching Band, but it’s more than that to Assistant Director of Bands Chris Branam.

“We’re trying to make them lifelong learners and continue with music education when they go to college, wherever that might be,” said Branam. “They’ve invested an enormous amount of time through their developmental years in middle and high school, to then let their talents erode and diminish at the college level is a shame. Because that’s the payoff. They get to be at the games and be a huge part of the esprit de corps at the college level.

“We’re fortunate that we’re the largest we’ve ever been and I think our outreach and giving students a path to see into college is important to that success.”

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More Band Day Experiences

“Actually being out on the field was really cool, because standing there and seeing the whole audience is surreal. It’s not something you’d ever be able to describe.”

Roberta Gunnels, sophomore, baritone

“When I was coming out of PNC Arena after we ate, seeing the circle of trumpets doing ‘The Dirty Shuffle,’ it was really, really funny to watch and I was like, ‘This is going to be a lot more fun than high school band.'”

Zachary Everson, sophomore, trumpet

“I really wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to school, but I definitely knew I wanted to continue doing marching band in college because I loved it so much in high school. So I would say Band Day really just confirmed my decision that yes, NC State would be a place I’d want to go because, along with the academics, I know that they have an amazing marching band and I know that’s something I want to be a part of. Making new friends and the game day atmosphere is something that would complete the college experience.”

Grant Robertson, freshman, trombone

“My favorite moment was right when we were getting in the tunnel formation at halftime. We all had to go underneath into this really dark area and none of us remembered our places. We all just had to crush together and sprint out of there, and all the college students were screaming. It was crazy.”

Sarah Newton, freshman, clarinet