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Marching Firebirds set to grow: Band camp begins Monday

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The Southern Nash Marching Firebirds have announced their 2019 band camp dates.

The camp will start Monday, July 22 and run through Friday, Aug 2 at the high school band room and outside practice field. The camp starts daily at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. each weekday and will not be held Saturday and Sunday.

Band camp is the official launch of the competitive marching season, which runs from September through early November. In the past, whether the program was big or small, the Marching Firebirds have always been able to bring home the hardware. More than 1,000 trophies and awards adorn the band room and band storage areas.

The trophy collection is the result of years of hard work and an expectation of excellence from Southern Nash’s bands; a tradition of showmanship that began more than 40 years ago with programs directed by marching band legends Roland Shaw in the ‘70s and early ‘80s and Michael Lancaster throughout the ‘90s until his unexpected death in 2006. That’s a tradition that Lancaster alum and current Southern Nash Director of Bands Matthew Ray is working hard to continue as he builds his own program at the school.

Ray is assisted this season by Southern Nash Middle School band director Lauren Lewis and Matt Bissette, both of whom are former Marching Firebirds. Katherine Owings and Chris Boswell direct the color guard. Numerous other Marching Firebird alumni are expected to assist with band camp this year. Travis Alford is writing the music.

“I’m looking forward to an exciting marching band season this fall,” said Ray. “We will have a younger group this year, which is expected to almost double last year’s size.”

While marching band is considered a fine art and technically not a sport, it’s not without its physical demands, including extended amounts of time on the school’s front lawn where the band field is located as well as continued walking, marching and carrying of equipment that require preparation in advance.

“We are already taking precautions and planning for hot days,” said Ray. “We are encouraging students who are planning to attend to start hydrating now.”

Band dues for this year are set at $300, which goes to cover anything from instrument repairs to competition day T-shirts. The Southern Nash Band Boosters have a limited number of scholarships available for those who may need financial assistance with annual dues.

Parents whose children need assistance and community members who would like to donate to the scholarship fund can contact Matthew Ray.

The Southern Nash band is also playing host for this year’s Nash County High School Marching Band showcase, which is being held on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 5 in conjunction with the Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival.

The annual showcase, which was previously held at Northern Nash High School, will feature all four of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools’ marching bands and color guards with each performing a part of their competition show.

Those interested in participating in marching band can email Matthew Ray at msray@nrms.k12.nc.us.