Burke, Stall bands ready for 24th Palmetto Invitational Band Classic
Remnants of the flooding in downtown Charleston were left on the field as the Burke High School band began its rehearsal. The ground was soggy, but that didn’t stop the musicians from practicing.
According to Burke High School band member Kenya Bracey, “You will definitely hear Burke before you see them.”
Kenya and the other 84 members of the Burke band are preparing for the 24th annual Palmetto Invitational Classic on Sunday, sponsored by the Burke Band Booster Club.
“Nothing changes. We work hard every day at practice,” freshman and alto saxophone player Dondre Smith said about preparing for the classic.
The band practices 3:30-6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. During practice, they break into sections, where instruments, flag girls, dancers and majorettes practice on their own. At the end of practice, they come together to work on formations.
“The band in general is really young, but I like them because they play well,” said Burke band director of 35 years Linard McCloud.
Members of Burke’s band range from the sixth to 12 grade. Senior flag girl Jessika Washington said having younger students in the band isn’t a problem.
“Sometimes we learn from them. They push us with their energy and drive,” Jessika said about the younger students.
One thing that has changed this past year was band camp. McCloud said that having camp at the school for the first time this summer instead of at Florida A&M University like they normally do allowed more students to participate. Jessika said that they practiced 9 a.m.-9 p.m. the week of camp.
“They feel more of a connection with each other. I have high hopes for them,” McCloud said.
For Burke students, the classic is more about opportunities than competition. McCloud said the classic brings in about $65,000 in college scholarships for their seniors.
“The classic has never been about an individual or an organization. It’s about what we can do to improve the quality of life for students,” said former band booster club chairman Andrew Lewis, who helped open the classic to colleges in 1996.
McCloud said many of his students are recruited by the college bands that perform at the classic. This year, Benedict College, Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and South Carolina State University will be present.
Lewis has had two children come through the band program. The youngest child graduated in 2000, but he is still active with the booster club. McCloud said that most of the booster club members are parents whose children have graduated but continue to support the program by selling tickets for the classic and working behind the scenes, which keeps costs down.
Lewis said that McCloud has made a positive impact on his children, who learned discipline, patience and leadership skills from him. His son, Adrian Lewis, received a partial band scholarship to South Carolina State University and is now a teacher. His daughter, Alexis Lewis, received a full scholarship to Florida A&M University and is now a physician.
On the other side of Charleston County, the 45 members of the Stall High School Band are practicing for the classic, too.
Since July 30, the students and their director, Oscar Wright, have been rehearsing 3:30-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Since school started, students have been spending about 10 hours there with classes and practice.
But many members see the band as a family. While they do spend a lot of time practicing, they still find time to joke around and laugh with each other.
Wright, who has been directing the band at Stall for three years, is only 26 and attended Charleston County Schools himself. He graduated from Bethune-Cookman University, where he played the alto saxophone in the band.
“It’s always exciting to see them. Sometimes I wish I could still play with them,” Wright said about seeing his alma mater at the classic.
Freshman Jarvis Gilliard plays the bass drum and said he always wanted to be a member of the Stall band because he grew up watching it. He also said that joining the band helped him transition better into high school because the older band members have taken him under their wings.
Even though this is his first year in the band, Jarvis said he is not nervous about the classic because he is comfortable with the music and is a quick learner.
Terence Williams, a junior and the head drum major, said he does not mind the long days at school because he has friends in the band. This will be his first time performing at the classic, and while he is nervous, he thinks that will all go away once he’s on the field.
According to junior Lmunique Briggs, who has been in the band for three years, if you want to be a member of the band, “You have to have courage to get out and perform.
“Practice makes perfect. You can’t get what you want unless you try,” she added.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.