Five years ago, the Garner Magnet High School marching band had membership in the 30s and a revolving door in the band director’s office.
But largely with the help of current band director Daniel Stellini, the band has revitalized. On Aug. 17, a rain-altered dress rehearsal capped summer band camp as the 77-member marching band prepared for football season along with its own competitions.
“My freshman year, just over 50 students were in the band. Now it’s hard to fit everyone in the band room,” drum major Dillon Teabo said. “The reputation within the community and with other bands has really grown as well. Not only is it growing in numbers, but in musicianship and everything else.”
Stellini started with the program two years ago, and band captain Logan McLamb said that was a major catalyst to the change.
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“The reason our band has grown so much has been because of Mr. Stellini,” McLamb said. “He really turned things around.”
The current senior class is the only that will have had experience before Stellini. When he took over their sophomore year, he became the third director in four years.
But students and their director say the culture of the band has changed substantially.
“The students in this band in particular are extraordinarily motivated. I sent them home with music this summer, and section captains pulled their sections together. No one required them to do it,” Stellini said.
McLamb, who has played sousaphone and baritone for the band in his high school tenure, said Stellini has put an emphasis on student leadership and the music.
“My freshman year, the attitude toward band – it was fun, but you were just there for the fun. You weren’t really there for the music,” said McLamb, who got his start in band at North Garner Middle School because his brother was in the band.
Stellini put more emphasis on the music, and McLamb said that generated more fun in appreciating the music. In addition, Teabo plans the rehearsals in his role, and McLamb works to diagnose problems and analyze solutions.
“His aim is to get us to where he is able to walk into the band room and not be needed,” McLamb said.
Teabo, a drummer (drum majors aren’t necessarily drummers), picked up marching band when a friend invited him. He didn’t really know how to read music at that point, even though he’d dabbled in percussion ensemble in eighth grade.
But now he plans to be a music major and play in the marching band in college. His first choice is Appalachian State, followed by Western North Carolina and N.C. State.
The marching band will naturally play home games for the school’s top-ranked football team. It will again liven the atmosphere with renditions of everything from “Final Countdown” to “You can Call Me Al” to “Eye of the Tiger.”
But the band will also compete in its own right. It plans to attend the Cleveland Marching Band Critique and Competition across the Johnston County border (Sept. 28), White Oak Band Classic in Jacksonville (Oct. 12) Capital City Band Expo at Sanderson High in Raleigh (Oct 26), and Crystal Coast Band Classic in Havelock (Nov. 2).
While popular hits work for football interludes, the band’s more classical-based field shows will center around the work of Welsh composer Karl Jenkins this year.
“It’s a little bit different than typical marching band music,” Stellini said. “It’s real good quality music. The kids like it; it’s energetic. It is a little different for the palate of their ears.”