The band program in Jackson County is a wonderful place for students in grades 6-12 to have a consistent and positive interaction with the arts during their most influential years. The directors, staff and student leaders of every group work hard to promote positive student behaviors, teamwork, citizenship and leadership through music. Students can choose to be a part of concert band during the school day or they can branch out and take part in our specialized performance groups after school in our competitive extra-curricular ensembles. Each group has shown growth in numbers and in competitive success since Mr. Umphlett took over the band program in 2005 and now with the addition of Mrs. Saunders leading the middle grade bands to over 150 students we look forward to continued success in the future. Please see below about a brief description of each of our ensembles.
Students begin taking band classes in 6th grade at all four of our community K-8 schools (Fairview, Cullowhee Valley, Scotts Creek and Smokey Mountain). The students need no previous music experience at all to join band at this level. The classes meet once a day at most schools and students are taught all basic skills necessary to read, comprehend and perform music on the band instrument of their choice. Beginning band instruments include: Flute, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone and Baritone. The combined Jackson County Sixth Grade Band performs at the Christmas Concert in December and Spring Concert in May with a few after school rehearsals before each to prepare.
During the band students second and third year, the classes are combined together to promote 8th grade leadership and to motivate 7th graders to improve quickly. The band literature becomes more demanding along with more intermediate music techniques that are learned. Students also have the opportunity to switch to percussion or more advanced instruments. This group also combines students from all four community schools for their performances. These band students will perform at four concerts each year one in October, December, March and May. Before the October concert the band students will participate in our annual Middle School Band Day held at the High School Fine Arts Building. During the clinic they work on extended techniques and in depth musical training with advanced level students from the high school band as well as rehearsing for their concert in full ensemble. The students also prepare for performance at the Western District Band Masters Music Performance Adjudication that takes place in mid-March every year. Possible trips to Carowinds or Six Flags for music festivals are also in the works for this ensemble.
The high school concert band is the only band ensemble that meets during the school day at Smoky Mountain High School. In the fall all 9th graders are put into their own class to learn the advanced skill necessary to perform in high school while the 10-12 graders meet to continue their music education. In the spring the band is split with percussion meeting during their own period since they are responsible for learning multiple techniques and equipment as percussionists. The wind players meet in the other class to focus on topics that are specific to their needs. The two classes always perform together during concerts. This ensemble has travelled multiple times under the direction of Mr. Umphlett and have received excellent and superior ratings in places such as New York City, Atlanta, Orlando and Washington, D.C.
The Marching Mustangs are a competitive marching band that competes in four competitions every fall ranging from local competitions in Enka and Canton to southeast regional competitions located in such places as Raleigh, Charleston (SC), Bassett (VA) and Atlanta (GA). Currently the band consists of 76 members with wind musicians, marching percussion, mallet percussion and a colorguard group that spins flags, rifles and incorporates modern dance techniques to round out our unique performance group. The group rehearses after school three days a week from August 1 to November 1 and perform at all Smoky Mountain Football games. The Marching Mustangs have a show originally composed for them each year by a professional composer. Their show themes in the past have included “Going Home” (a modern E.T. film on the football field) as well as classics such as “Music of the Mountains.” This year the band is performing a show entitled “Surviving Everest” which is a marching band interpretation of the book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. The band pride themselves on being original, entertaining audiences across the southeast and in doing it with class, dignity and integrity. The motto the students of the marching band have adopted is as follows: “A group of unique individuals who come together in the pursuit of excellence in performance and as role models that have a positive impact on the world.”
Our after school percussion ensemble is a group consisting of about 18-25 members. Some of the students are current percussionist but we also include wind players and those with no experience at all. This group starts rehearsing in November and the competitive season runs through the first weekend in April with practices taking place twice per week at the high school. The percussion ensemble attends four Saturday competitions with locations including SC, TN and western NC. This group has finished in the top 3 at the Carolina Indoor Performance Association Championships since 2009 and placed 10th in the entire country in the concert percussion category at Winterguard International Championships in 2011 held in Dayton, Ohio.
The Smoky Mountain Jazz Ensemble is an auditioned group consisting of Saxophones, Trombones, Trumpets and a rhythm section (piano, drum set, guitar and bass). The Jazz Ensemble starts in January and continues through the first couple weeks of May, rehearsing two to three days per week after school. This group does not currently compete, but has performed at festivals and received excellent ratings. They also perform at local community events including Relay for Life, Western Carolina University receptions and at the Smoky Mountain Performing Arts concerts. This is a great opportunity for students to gain in depth knowledge of jazz studies in an extra-curricular setting.
The Winterguard ensemble is comprised of instrumentalists, dancers and anyone who wants to learn more about dance and spinning a flag. These students learn a dance and flag routine to a pre-recorded song. This group also competes in the same circuit as our percussion ensemble and generally travels to the same places to have their competitions. In the past this groups has ranged in size from 8-16 members and has had regional success at the competitions and consistently places well at the championships each year. The Winterguard also practices about twice per week in preparation for their competitions and their season runs from November to the first weekend of April as well.