By Mac McLeod,
Despite the declining numbers, Livingston Academy band director Greg Dingwall is optimistic that this year’s edition will be a “very good band with a lot of enthusiasm and ability”.
Entering his 28th year in the Overton County school system and 21st as the band director, Dingwall has seen a lot of change, both good and bad, and with all the experience, understands some of the reason youngster don’t pursue band more these days than they did in the past.
“I’ve talked with a lot of parents over the years,” the director started out, “and kids these days have several valid reasons they just don’t won’t to be in the band. For some, it’s the time that is needed to be a part of the band. We’re like a football or basketball team in that you have to devote a lot of time if you want to be successful.
“Then there’s other interests,” Dingwall added. “There are so many other things youngsters get into now and they simply lose interest, plus you have to raise money to make the program work, etc. Some parents tell me the youngsters are afraid to play in public for fear of making a mistake. There are a lot of reasons, but one things is for certain and that’s if a youngster is in the band today, he or she really wants to be there, and in that case, it makes for a much better band.
“They want to do it.”
This year the Livingston Academy Marching Band will put 28 players on the field at halftime in all LA home football games and several of the out of town games as well. Working with other schools on their home field creates a lot of camaraderie between players and schools and is another part of the program of learning how to work with other systems.
“It gives our players a chance to get to know other players from other schools and builds friendships that would otherwise not happen,” the director added, “and this is all a part of learning, not only music, but real life experiences.”
As in the past, band members have to raise money for instruments, uniforms, travel expenses, etc. and not only looks to the Livingston community, but also to fundraisers to pay the bills.
“The community has been a good neighbor in helping us meet our expenses,” Dingwall continued. “Most of them know our situation and help. A $100 here and $100 there really does help, plus we had three car washes this summer and we also work concession stands. As you can see, we don’t just march and play at football games on Friday night.”
In addition to playing at football games and also serving as a prep band at LA home basketball games, the band also competes in competitions and has done well over the years. Last year, the LA band finished first in two competitions and high up in several more.
This fall, fans at ball games can expect to hear the music of several world famous piano players including Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder.
“The Piano Men” is the theme of this year’s program and will feature such songs as Charles’ “What’d I Say”, John’s “Your Song”, Wonder’s “Sir Duke” and Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”.
The band is led this year by Drum Major Bethany Bilbrey. Justin Vance is the Band Captain, Thomas Burgess is Woodward 1st Lieutenant, Maggie Hix is Brass 1st Lieutenant, Evelyn Taylor is 1st Lieutenant for the Percussion/Front Ensemble, Christina Holbert is 1st Lieutenant for the Color Guard, and Logistic 1st Lieutenant is Wyatt Reagan.
Senior Bethany Bilbrey and junior Mackenzie Tripp make up the flute section. Senior Thomas Burgess will lead the Clarinets aided by sophomores Trinity Langford and Emma Coil and sophomores Dakota Bilbrey and Skye Jordan.
The Alto Sax section will be led by junior Samantha Fuhrman aided by sophomore Ethan Stover and freshman Nicholas Emerick.
Five players make up the Trumpet section and include senior Justin Vance, junior Ethan Conner, sophomore Madison Auberson, and freshmen Cole Story and Andrew Johnson.
Senior Andrew Green heads up the Horn section, junior Leila Weaver at Trombone, seniors Maggie Hix and Mackenzie Hunter, Baritones, and junior Wyatt Reagan, Tuba.
There are six members of the Percussion section and include juniors Chyanne Dale, Isabella Sherman and Jon Fultz. Sophomores Evelyn Taylor, Breanna Ayers, and freshman Thomas Sherman fill out the section.
Band Color Guard includes senior Hannah Wilson and junior Christina Holbert.
“This is a very good band,” Dingwall said,“ and we are working hard to getting more players starting in elementary schools, to take up music. It’s an ongoing thing, but believe me, we’re trying and will keep trying because we think music is an important part of one’s education. Also, we are getting students to apply and accept scholarships which is a great way to help pay for higher education. Last year, we had two who earned scholarships to Tennessee Tech, and that’s a very positive thing.”
Assisting Dingwall this year at summer camp included assistant band director Mike Holbrook, Sarah Dingwall, and former band members Sami Levee, Zak Sells, Chris Keans, Lesley Dial, and Carter Cornette.