Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Peachtree Ridge High School marching band member Emily Holbrook plays the flute in practice on Tuesday to prepare for the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Saturday.
North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge Marching Band
North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge bands prepared for the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.
SUWANEE -- Parents and grandparents in the stands at North Gwinnett High School football games this fall may harken back to some popular songs when they were their kids' ages.
The North marching band will feature a '70s theme for its halftime performance this year, with songs like Earth, Wind and Fire's "In the Stone," Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Boogie Down" by Al Jarreau.
"I've always wanted a band that could play some Earth, Wind and Fire," North band director Brian Lambeth said. "I think it's important to have tunes people can recognize."
At Peachtree Ridge High School, students may need to explain their band's song, Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO, to their older friends and relatives.
Both bands began practicing weeks before school started three weeks ago to fine tune their performances. Lambeth said drummers put in nearly 100 hours of work, while wind players had about 50.
Excitement for the season, which began last night at the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome, has been building since those hot July days in the school's parking lot.
At Peachtree Ridge, senior drum major Chandler Greer said part of the excitement is because this year's band is unique.
"This is probably one of the most hard-working bands that I've been apart of since I've been here," Greer said. "We've been moving a lot faster than we have in past years. Usually we don't know the whole show three weeks into school. We know it, and everybody is doing a really good job with it."
Peachtree Ridge band director Andy Edwards said he and student leaders try to pick songs that will get a response from the student section. Last year in the Georgia Dome, the Lions had fans from Walton and Peachtree Ridge singing a Justin Bieber song.
"The fans are really excited because we play a lot of pop music now, and it's more recognizable so they can recognize what we're playing," senior drum major Giovanna Marrin said.
While Peachtree Ridge gears its season toward several competitions in October, North focuses its efforts on the Friday night experience. But both bands are expected to play in the Suwanee Day parade on Sept. 15.
Because North has many students who are enrolled in Advanced Placement classes, Lambeth said it was difficult to justify the workload.
North hasn't had a competitive band since 2005.
"A lot of the competitive bands practice 15 hours a week," he said. "That's hard to convince parents and kids to do that. I'm not saying bands that do that aren't successful, I'm just saying it's not something we wanted to do."
Despite the school splitting off three times since Lambeth has been at North in 11 years, the size of the band has grown from 75 members to about 150 members. Lambeth credited North Gwinnett Middle band directors Mary Wilson and Hunter McRae with developing a strong feeder program.
"It's just always neat how kids step into the next level and the next role," Lambeth said. "All of our section leaders except for two are new. They just step into that role. Leadership is huge here at North Gwinnett and it really gives those kids that want to take it on the opportunity to do that."
Seniors also make a significant contribution at Peachtree Ridge as 26 of the 82 band members are in their final year the school. While Edwards is in his second year at the school, he said the seniors have been a "dedicated class that really set the bar high."
Peachtree Ridge will have four competitions in October, and perform on a trip to the Bahamas during spring break.
The theme the band will perform, Edwards said, is called "Art Evolution," which is based on a three-part series of painting, taking a photograph and a movie.
Band members said the challenging theme helps in competitions where points are awarded for difficulty.
"When I first heard what the show was I was sort of confused," Greer said. "But once we started putting it together, it's a really cool concept. It's probably one of the more challenging shows we've played in a while."