Wando High School has been a dominant force in the world of South Carolina marching bands for years. With 10 state 5-A titles since 2005, the band will compete on a national level Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The band earned its best-ever ranking two years ago when it placed seventh at the Bands of America Grand National Championships, an open contest that draws fierce competition from across the country. This time around, Band Director Bobby Lambert said Wando's performance could be its best yet.
"All we’re trying to do is be the best Wando we’ve ever been," Lambert said. "And we’re certainly on course to do that."
It's been a big year for the 280-student band. Fresh off a second-place finish at the Bands of America Super Regional in Atlanta, they got a surprise pep talk at practice last Friday from country music star Darius Rucker.
Today's world of competitive marching bands is decidedly more avant-garde than the halftime shows of old. The title of this year's show is "Therefore," and the concept revolves around philosophical ideas like René Descartes' "I think, therefore I am." It features an original composition by Furman University Athletic Bands Director Jay Bocook and visual elements including a 200-pound foam sculpture of a head from artist and longtime collaborator Michael Gray.
This weekend's performances will be a last hurrah for seniors who have stuck with the program for four years, toughing out 13-hour summer practice sessions and a demanding schedule during the fall.
Senior Jared Imholz, this year's brass captain, is the last in a line of three Imholz siblings to take the field with the Warriors' band. His older brother Daniel is an instructor on the band's visual team. Their mother, longtime marching band public relations director Rebecca Imholz, said the band has been a part of her family's life for more than a decade.
"What’s so great about the bands of Wando is they will always have music," Imholz said. "It may not be their chosen full-time profession, but most of the kids will continue on doing something in the music world because they enjoy it."
Senior Morgan Monty earned the rank of drum major this year and was thrilled to help put on the band's best-ever performance at the super regional. She said they were hampered last year when torrential flooding hit in the heart of marching-band season.
"It was really hard because every rehearsal really matters with the short season," Monty said. This year, she added, "it was a huge motivator to use every second we had wisely because you never know what could be taken away."
The Wando Marching Band will take the field for the first round of competition in Indianapolis at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Live video of the event will be available at musicforall.org.