Wando High School students spend long days out on the field under the sun gathering in formations, working to be the best.

It's hard work and requires teamwork -- a giving of the mind, body and soul.

Michael Gray, a former high school football player and visual coordinator for the Wando Marching Band, wouldn't say band practice is more difficult than football.

The main difference, Gray said, is that the band accepts all shapes and sizes.

You don't have to weigh 250 pounds. You don't have to be a man to join, he said.

"(The students) are trying to bring positivity into a world that's not always positive," Gray said.

Funding is tighter than ever before. But Gray said the school never let funding stand in the way of good teaching.

This year, Wando students are marching to music by Russian pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff for a production called "Turn."

Gray designed the visual scheme inspired by Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." The music crescendos as it progresses, which Gray said reminds him of falling snow.

He said he also started thinking about the students at Wando and how the time they have together is so short. The show will depict the transitions between the seasons but leaves out summer, intentionally symbolic of the time yet to be lived by Wando students, he said.

Gray said he also drew from the poem "Reluctance" by Robert Frost. He favors the last few lines:

"Ah, when to the heart of man,

Was it ever less than a treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season?"

The music and the march are the most difficult the band has ever attempted, Band Director Scott Rush said.

Like other bands in the area, Wando won't participate in as many competitions as in years past.

The band won't go to the national Bands of America Grand Nationals marching competition it placed in last year, but it will participate in the Bands of America Super Regional competition in Atlanta on Oct. 30.

Drum major Katie Long said it's their goal to place first.

"We ask a lot of our kids every year," Gray said.

The Wando Marching Band isn't interested in playing it safe.

Without the possibility of failure, Gray said, "Why do it?"

Reach Jessica Miller at 937-5921 or jmiller@postand courier.com.