Shades of blue

  • Monday, August 25, 2014

Eileen Keithly/South Strand News Waccamaw High School Band Drum Major, Tori Setliff, bottom right, directs the band through a series of warm up scales, while assistant band director Nancy Randall listens to make sure everyone is properly in tune.


The Waccamaw High School marching band is seeing blue.

Blue prints, blue flags, blue moons, rhapsodies in blue, blue men, blue buildings and shades of blue.

If you haven’t figured it out, the band’s 2014-2015 marching band theme centers around everything blue.

“I think our fans are going to love this theme,” Band Director Chris Graham said at a recent practice. “This show is going to be amazing. We have gigantic blue print backdrops that will set the stage for our symphonic pieces.”

Graham related he started working with noted marching band musical arranger Ryan Bybee on this season’s theme in January.

Bybee is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, so Graham communicated with him frequently by phone.

“Once we had the theme in our head and we targeted our music, we were in constant contact working toward the moment that you are witnessing right now, the band putting the music and the marching together,” Graham said proudly.

Graham takes his job seriously. He believes his dedication to excellence has been passed along to his students. “Listen, you don’t have to practice to be last, and my band knows that.”

Graham knew in January he would have a dedicated group of students on the practice field in the summer, and was determined to give them a challenging and entertaining show to work toward.

“When our band takes the field, there is a lot of time, hard work, and money that goes into each show,” Graham said. “We have to be the best we can be with our music and our precision.”

Graham believes his students start out in middle school with a dedication that follows them down the road to the high school.

“My assistant band director, Nancy Randall, does an excellent job with our middle school students,” Graham said.

“We are in this together; we tag team this marching band, because it takes way more than just me to make this happen. “

The theme that Graham and Bybee created is based on Frank Ticheli’s symphonic composition, “Blue Shades.”

As its title suggests, the work alludes to the blues, and a jazz feeling is prevalent.

Blues’ harmonies, rhythms, and melodic idioms pervade the work; and many “shades of blue” are depicted, from bright blue, to dark, to dirty, and to hot blue.

Graham and Bybee also interjected a ragtime tone into the theme, by incorporating a well-known musical composition by American composer George Gershwin, “Rhapsody in Blue.”

It is a piece that combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects.

On Aug. 14, the band was divided into instrument sections and color guard groups, with each one enduring the afternoon heat on the practice field at Waccamaw High School.

After tossing a heavy blue flag in the air for over 20 minutes, Hannah Wolf’s color guard section was ready for a water break.

“We get water with the rest of the band,” Wolf, the senior lead color guard, told her regiment. “When they drink, we drink.”

By the looks of red faces and sweat-covered brows, the color guard was not going to have to wait long to quench its thirst.

“Okay everybody, great job. Let’s take a quick break and make sure you all get plenty of water,” Tori Setliff directed.

Setliff, Waccamaw’s drum major, has put her clarinet in the case for marching season, and is focused on keeping the band together.

“I am responsible for making sure that the three sections of our band perform, and sometimes that is not an easy job,” she said.

Setliff, a senior, is undecided on a college, but is certain she will major in music education and continue with music performance once she has settled on a school.

Setliff is not alone in keeping the band together on the field. While she is high atop her drum major podium, she looks to Band Captain Sam Insignares to keep things controlled on the field.

“Tori is controlling the music and I am enforcing discipline on the field,” Insignares said, acknowledging that the band has wonderful respect for one another, so he is actually there to make sure everyone’s feet are moving correctly with the beat.

Graham has chosen a high energy and difficult theme for the marching Warriors, but the band members believe they are up to the task. “This program is musically and technically difficult,” Insignares said. “But we are very excited to perform it for everyone.”

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