By Jayme Middleton
The 2018 LaGrange College Mighty Marching Panthers Band is 7 color guard, 14 winds, and 12 percussion members. In total, that’s 33 members, all from difference backgrounds, playing different instruments, and fulfilling different responsibilities.
Even with these differences, the Mighty Marching Panthers think of themselves as part of an extended family.
From seniors who have been here since the beginning, to freshmen who are trying to find lifelong friends, the marching band gives students a sense of belonging and pride both on and off the field.
The program itself was established in 2015 with only 17 members by the previous director, Josh Roberts. The band’s structured schedule includes practicing two hours a day, three times a week, with an occasional morning practice on game days. These practices are often outside on the band practice field, except for when it rains, when the practice moves inside to focus on music.
Each member wields the satisfaction of surviving the daunting task of learning new drills and memorizing high-level music. No matter what, the members of the band are giving their all, continuously trying to make their show and their program the best that it can be.
This year, the Marching Panthers are led by a new band director, Dr. Brandon Slocumb. With a background in playing and teaching trombone, Slocumb began his career in band directing at Samford University in 2014.
About his goals for the band, Dr. Slocumb says, “The obvious answer is that we need to build members, but I am also looking to recruit hi
His plan to expand the program consists of visiting high schools in person by performing a presentation to schools in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.
Dr. Slocumb does not just want to recruit new members. He wants to build upon the band he already has. “I will also be working to increase the numbers in our new music education program,” Slocumb states. He plans to also increase the difficulty of the music they perform.
Founding member Mercedes Smith has gained a lot from marching at LaGrange College. An early childhood education major, Smith has spent her twelve years of music experience focusing her talent on the saxophone. She has played alto, tenor, and baritone and is marching this year as a tenor saxophone.
“Marching band has taught me about commitment,” Smith says. “I have gained a sense of belonging, a sense that I have finally found where I fit in.”
Smith stresses that the band is very much a tight-knit community. “Even after the bickering and arguing at rehearsal, we come together as a whole. We come together as a family.”
Lori Estoll, a freshman graduate from Heard County High School, is one of seven color guard members in the LCMB. The 2018 season is her fourth year in marching band, and she is no stranger to hard work for her performances.
When asked how band in college is different from marching band in high school, Estoll says, “College marching band is different because you have to learn a pre-show along with a regular halftime performance.”
Marching band has taught me about commitment. I have gained a sense of belonging, a sense that I have finally found where I fit in.
Mercedes Smith, Tenor Saxophone
She is also conscious of the vast differences between marching an instrument and being in color guard. “Unlike the band when they practice music, we’re practicing work over and over until everything looks okay,” Estoll says. “You have to worry about hand placement and all the work you have learned.”
With a new director, new members, and veteran players, the Marching Panthers have a variety of talents and abilities to showcase. Yet, no matter the differences, these 33 members consistently come together to overcome obstacles, push each other to do better, and offer words of encouragement.
Smith says, “‘A band is not proud because it performs well; it performs well because it is proud, and I could never be more proud and honored to don that red and black uniform, in 98 degree weather, with anyone but my fellow Marching Panthers.’”
The LaGrange College Marching Band welcomes you to this weekend’s homecoming game against Maryville College, where the band will be performing throughout the game and at halftime.